Gone are the days when your first glimpse of an unfamiliar runway occurs moments before you touch down on that runway, with only some published airport statistics and some cryptic notes about the field as preparation.
Resources now offer satellite photos that you can manipulate and enlarge, online videos, and chat room conversations to fill in the blanks about new destinations as you plan your flight and work to comply with the broad mandate of 14 CFR 91.103 to “become familiar with all available information concerning that flight.”
The extensive notes for one high-elevation Nevada airport describe a range of airport conditions that a new arrival would be well-advised to be aware of, ranging from the unpaved runway being “hazardous when wet," and there being no line of sight between runway ends, to “Mountains West and North. Uncontrolled vehicle access across rwys. Rwy 17 gradient 2.5% first 500´. Rwy 17–35 thresholds marked with 4 white cement pads flush to the ground. Rwy edge marked with reflectors. Rwy 17–35 rwy lgts NSTD. Rising terrain at rwy edges narrowing primary sfc at center of rwy. Par twy clsd indef.”
As with other aviation scenarios in which a chain of events produces an accident, the hazard that initiates trouble may not be the one that eventually causes the mishap.
In August 2006, a 585-hour pilot of a Cessna 172, unfamiliar with the 4,620-foot-msl field, flew the approach a bit high to avoid obstructions on a hill. During the landing flare he “became aware that the runway sloped uphill. He was below the crest, and could not see how long the runway continued past it.”
Commencing a go-around, he “pulled the nose up, and upon climbing above the crest, noticed houses at the end of the runway.”
He added power, leaned the mixture, and worked the flaps, but the airplane would not climb, and collided with a house.
A possible tailwind and high density altitude also may have been factors in the accident that the National Transportation Safety Board said was probably caused by an untimely go-around, and inadequate climb rate.
Going around is good judgment. Don’t let it fail because you were missing information needed to perform it successfully.