Go-around gone wrong

CHI04FA257

AOPA Air Safety Foundation

Fatal accidents during go-arounds have been on the rise in recent years, accounting for more than six percent of fatal accidents in 2005.

On September 12, 2004, a Cessna 182T crashed during a night VFR go-around at Spirit of St. Louis Airport near Chesterfield, Mo. The pilot and his three passengers were killed.

The pilot of the Cessna contacted the airport's tower when he was 11 miles south of the airport and was cleared to land on Runway 26R. During the landing attempt, the pilot told the tower that he was going around. He was subsequently cleared to make right traffic for Runway 26R. The pilot accepted the clearance but was not heard from again. Several witnesses in the area saw a "low flying aircraft disappear behind the woods before hearing a loud crash and seeing an explosion."

Radar recorded the Cessna at 550 feet msl (87 feet agl) at the arrival end of Runway 26R and at a maximum altitude of 1,050 feet msl during the climb. Winds were calm at the time of the accident, and the visibility was 5 miles in mist.

At the accident site, investigators found the aircraft's flaps in the 25-degree position. The balked landing checklist in the Cessna 182T pilot's operating handbook says:

  1. Power — FULL THROTTLE and 2400 rpm
  2. Wing Flaps — RETRACT to 20 degrees
  3. Climb Speed — 55 KIAS
  4. Wing Flaps — RETRACT slowly after reaching a safe altitude and 70 KIAS
  5. Cowl Flaps — OPEN

The private pilot received his certificate just 22 days before the accident and had accumulated less then 100 hours of total time, 3.3 of which were at night. The pilot had graduated from a Part 141 FAA-approved flight school. According to a pre-accident letter from the pilot's flight instructor to the flight school's management:

"...Throughout the rest of the training, [he] began showing complacency in the airplane. I would stress to him the importance of using checklists, yet he would not use them unless I made him. He seemed to think that I was only having him use the checklists to prepare him for the practical test, but I would explain that the checklist is there for his safety. [He] also felt that a GUMPS check or any before landing checklist was a waste of time if he was doing touch and goes and remaining in the pattern. An example of [his] attitude toward his training was during simulated engine failures. On two occasions I pulled the power back on the engine and expected [him] to follow emergency procedures. Both times he would argue with me that he did not want to simulate an emergency right then. He did not seem to respect the fact that an engine failure could happen at any time and he would never be expecting one.

I endorsed [him] because he did meet all of the standards for the practical test and he passed his Part 141 Graduation ride. I am writing you because even though [he] performed well on his Grad and will pass his practical test, I am worried about his complacent attitude toward flying and expressing my concern for his safety post check ride."

The NTSB determined the probable cause of this accident to be the pilot's failure to maintain airspeed and the inadvertent stall he encountered during the go-around.

Go-arounds are challenging but rarely practiced. If this low-time pilot had respected and followed the balked landing checklist, he most likely would have completed the maneuver safely, sparing both his own life and those of his three passengers.


Accident reports can be found in ASF's accident database.


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Posted Thursday, September 20, 2007 10:49:56 AM