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What Happens If You Go Around After The Missed Approach Point On An Instrument Approach?

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You've been cleared for the ILS and break out of the clouds around 500 feet. As you begin your flare, traffic crosses the runway ahead of you. You initiate a go-around, but now you're beyond the missed approach point (MAP). Now what?


Why Would You Go-Missed Below Minimums?

The goal on nearly every instrument approach is to get the runway in sight at or before minimums and land safely. As you pass through minimums and approach your landing flare, what would be a few good reasons to perform a late-stage missed approach?

  • Runway incursion
  • Unstable approach
  • Excessive floating down the runway
  • Windshear
  • Rejected landing (bounce, balloon, porpoise, etc.)
  • Unplanned contaminated runway
  • Unplanned problem with your brakes or landing gear

We found most of our answers for this article in the FAA's AIM Section 5-4-21. Read through the AIM for the most thorough details the FAA provides.

First, What Is Obstacle Protection Based On?

To certify an instrument approach the FAA TERPS team calculates obstacle and terrain protection past the missed approach point (MAP) based on a few factors. Here's a quote from AIM 5-4-21(b):

"Obstacle protection for a missed approach is predicated on the missed approach being initiated at the decision altitude/decision height (DA/DH) or at the missed approach point and not lower than minimum descent altitude (MDA). A climb gradient of at least 200 feet per nautical mile is required, (except for Copter approaches, where a climb of at least 400 feet per nautical mile is required), unless a higher climb gradient is published in the notes section of the approach procedure chart.

When higher than standard climb gradients are specified, the endpoint of the non-standard climb will be specified at either an altitude or a fix. Pilots must preplan to ensure that the aircraft can meet the climb gradient (expressed in feet per nautical mile) required by the procedure in the event of a missed approach, and be aware that flying at a higher than anticipated ground speed increases the climb rate requirement (feet per minute). Tables for the conversion of climb gradients (feet per nautical mile) to climb rate (feet per minute), based on ground speed, are included on page D1 of the U.S. Terminal Procedures booklets.

Reasonable buffers are provided for normal maneuvers. However, no consideration is given to an abnormally early turn. Therefore, when an early missed approach is executed, pilots should, unless otherwise cleared by ATC, fly the IAP as specified on the approach plate to the missed approach point at or above the MDA or DH before executing a turning maneuver."

Again, this is all predicated on initiating a missed approach at or above the MDA/DA at the MAP.

If you initiate a missed approach below MDA/DA, obstacle clearance is not necessarily provided by following the published missed approach procedure, nor is separation assured from other air traffic in the vicinity.

Report: Vehicle Crosses The Runway During A Snowy ILS Approach

We found this NASA ASRS example which shows an example of a missed approach below minimums. In this case, the crew was flying into KBWI, a towered Class B airport...

"After our hand-off from Approach Control to Tower, we were cleared to land on Runway 10... The approach lights and the touchdown portion of the runway lights were in view prior to reaching the approach minimums. Visibility limitations prevented us from seeing the entire length of Runway 10 and the covering of snow removed the normal visual contrast cues. Just prior to touch down, the Tower directed a go-around due to a vehicle being on the runway. At that time, we had not seen the vehicle. We think we saw the vehicle in our peripheral vision as we executed the go-around...

It was fortunate that the Tower called the go-around because we had not seen the vehicle. We were vectored for another approach and landed without further issue. As we checked in with the Tower the second time, the Controller (it sounded like the same Controller) apologized for the late go-around call. We expressed our thanks that he gave us the call."

Late Missed Approach (Towered Airport Or ATC Communication Available)

Dealing with late-stage missed approaches is easiest (and safest) when you're flying into a towered airport with continuous ATC communication. If you're able to communicate your missed approach with ATC directly, you can get alternate missed approach instructions if needed. Remember to aviate, navigate, then communicate, however. Communicating your missed approach is the last step in the process.

Here's what the FAA has to say...

"In the event a balked (rejected) landing occurs at a position other than the published missed approach point, the pilot should contact ATC as soon as possible to obtain an amended clearance."

Live from the Flight Deck

Late Missed Approach (Non-Towered Airport Or No ATC Communication)

But what happens if you're flying into a non-towered airport or there's no readily available communication with ATC? You still might be on an IFR flight plan and simply outside their coverage area or just at a non-towered field. Here are a few steps the FAA lays out in 5-4-21(h)...

If unable to contact ATC for any reason, the pilot should attempt to re-intercept a published segment of the missed approach and comply with route and altitude instructions. If unable to contact ATC, and in the pilot's judgment it is no longer appropriate to fly the published missed approach procedure, then consider either maintaining visual conditions if practicable and reattempt a landing, or a circle-climb over the airport.

Should a missed approach become necessary when operating to an airport that is not served by an operating control tower, continuous contact with an air traffic facility may not be possible. In this case, the pilot should execute the appropriate go-around/missed approach procedure without delay and contact ATC when able to do so.


What You Can Do Before Initiating Your Approach

Before you start an instrument approach, brief what you'll do in the event of a rejected landing below DA/MDA. Make considerations based on the following criteria, among other factors specific to your flight:

  • Weather conditions
  • Aircraft performance
  • Air traffic separation
  • Your location compared to the MAP
  • Direction of flight compared to minimum turning altitudes
  • Visual climb restrictions
  • Charted obstacles
  • Published obstacle departure procedure
  • Takeoff visual climb requirements
  • Anything else not expressed by the approach procedure

You may never deal with a situation quite like this, but there are plenty of airports in the country where your performance may be limited and the obstacles around you suddenly pushing the safety envelope. Stay ahead of the plane and always treat each approach like a go-around until you can land safely.


What Do You Think?

Have you ever gone missed below minimums? What else do you want to learn about instrument approaches? Tell us in the comments below.

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