Training Tip: Pounce on the pitch

August 23, 2013

Identify this scenario: The aircraft is close to the ground with the power increasing and configuration changing; the pilot is applying strong forward pressure to the control yoke.

Good work if you said this was the early stage of a balked landing or go-around. If there seems to be some dissonance between "power increasing" and "the pilot applying strong forward pressure to the control yoke," think about your most recent practice go-around: What did you have to do to get the aircraft climbing?

Suppose you are established on a stabilized approach, power off and full flaps, on short final, trimmed so that it takes no special physical effort to maintain the pitch attitude and airspeed.

Suddenly an aircraft taxies onto the runway unannounced, or a ground vehicle appears without warning. You immediately commence a go-around: full power, aggressive right rudder to offset left-turning tendency, and (if recommended) an immediate partial retraction of flaps.

How will your aircraft, established in a power-off glide, respond to that quick burst of power?

It will respond by seeking to maintain its trimmed airspeed. It does that by pitching up—perhaps quite vigorously—as it pitches to the attitude that would maintain its trimmed airspeed at the new power setting.

Allowing the strong pitching-up response to proceed unrestrained could cause an excessive angle of attack. So as you busily work to arrest the descent, reconfigure, maintain directional control, and keep tabs on the goings-on below, add the necessary forward pressure (which also will help you quickly establish the recommended climb airspeed.).

What about retrimming?

You’ll have your hands (and feet) full of aircraft control chores during this crucial time, but you may find that some "rough trim" helps you cope with the pitch forces created by the quick transition from power-off glide to full-throttle climb. But don’t become distracted by the urge to trim.

"As soon as the appropriate climb airspeed and pitch attitude are attained, the pilot should 'rough trim' the airplane to relieve any adverse control pressures. Later, more precise trim adjustments can be made when flight conditions have stabilized," explains a discussion of go-around technique in the Airplane Flying Handbook.

A go-around commenced at low altitude is among the highest of high-workload scenarios. Whenever you must divide your attention between aircraft control tasks and conflicting traffic remember: Fly the airplane first!

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.