Missed Approach

Missed Approach


When, for any reason, it is judged that an approach or landing cannot be continued to a successful landing, a missed approach or go-around shall be flown.

Reasons for discontinuing an approach or landing may include the following:

Missed Approach Procedure

A missed approach procedure is the procedure to be followed if an approach cannot be continued. It specifies a point where the missed approach begins, and a point or an altitude/height where it ends. (ICAO Doc 8168: PANS-OPS)

A missed approach procedure is specified for all airfield and runway Precision Approach and Non-Precision Approach procedures. The missed approach procedure takes into account de-confliction from ground obstacles and from other air traffic flying instrument procedures in the airfield vicinity. Only one missed approach procedure is established for each instrument approach procedure.

Usually a go-around from an instrument approach should follow the specified missed approach procedure unless otherwise instructed by air traffic control or if safety reasons dictate otherwise.

If a missed approach is initiated below the DA/H in precision approach procedures, or beyond the missed approach point (MAPt) or below MDA/H in non-precision approach procedures pilots must consider if they can still safely follow the published missed approach or if they require a special routing e.g. in case of an engine failure during go-around (e.g. by birdstrike) when, depending on aircraft performance, it may be necessary to follow special engine failure turn procedures or using visual references only.

If a missed approach is initiated before arriving at the missed approach point (MAPt), it is important that pilots proceed to the MAPt (or to the middle marker fix or specified DME distance for precision approach procedures) and then follow the missed approach procedure in order to remain within the protected airspace. The MAPt may be overflown at an altitude/height greater than that required by the procedure; but in the case of a missed approach with a turn, the turn must not take place before the MAPt, unless otherwise specified in the procedure.

The MAPt in a procedure is defined by:

  • the point of intersection of an electronic glide path with the applicable DA/H in precision approaches; or,
  • a navigation facility, a fix, or a specified distance from the final approach fix in non-precision approaches.

A visual go around may be made after an unsuccessful visual approach if no published missed approach is available.

A go-around is often unexpected and places special demands on the pilots, who may not often have an opportunity to practice this procedure other then in the simulator. Some aspects of the go-around which deserve special study are:

Often, if an emergency or abnormal situation develops during the final stages of an approach, it is likely that the approach will be continued to land. However, in some cases, such as a configuration issue (flaps or gear position), performing a missed approach, completing the appropriate drills and checklists to prepare for a non-standard approach and then conducting a second approach to a landing or diverting to a more suitable airfield might be the more prudent course of action.

Accidents and Incidents

The following events occurred during missed approach or involved a missed approach:

On 29 April 2023, a Boeing 737-800 night takeoff clearance at Sydney was delayed by unexpectedly slow landing traffic clearance and it became necessary for another Boeing 737-800 on approach to the same runway to be instructed to go around and minimum separation was reduced below safe distances both laterally and vertically. It was found that the conflict had resulted from a combination of inappropriate intervention by the Tower Supervisor and the controller’s own actions. A review of potential conflicts during mixed mode runway use at Sydney to improve resilience to inevitable pilot and controller error was initiated by ATC.

On 15 October 2022 an airport authority vehicle entered an active runway without clearance with a Boeing 737-8 on short final which was instructed to and completed a go around. The experienced driver involved had correctly read back a clearance to remain at the holding point on reaching it but failed to stop and it was concluded the insufficiently obvious nature of the installed signage was contributory. Drivers were found to have routinely ignored instructions to use the available perimeter road for years, preferring to cross active runways to save time without the airport authority taking any relevant safety action.

On 31 January 2022, a Bombardier Challenger 604 pilot lost control during the final stages of a London Stansted night crosswind landing. A bounced nose-gear-first touchdown was followed by a brief runway excursion onto grass before a return to the runway and a climb away. A diversion to London Gatwick followed without further event but subsequent inspection revealed structural and other damage sufficient to result in the aircraft being declared an economic hull loss. The Stansted touchdown was found to have occurred after a premature flare at idle thrust continued towards the stall and a momentary stick pusher activation occurred.

On 25 October 2022, a Boeing 777-300ER encountered deteriorating weather conditions after initiating a delayed arrival diversion from Singapore Changi to nearby Batam where four approaches were flown and a ‘MAYDAY Fuel’ declared before a landing was achieved. By this time, the fuel remaining was “significantly below final reserve” although the actual figure was not published in the Investigation Report. It was concluded that the mismanagement of weather operational risk by the flight crew involved had resulted in potentially hazardous circumstances created by both the delay in commencing the diversion and a lack of professionalism on reaching its vicinity.

On 6 December 2019, a Boeing 737-800 below Decision Altitude on an ILS approach at Paris Orly was unexpectedly instructed to go-around in day VMC without explanation. The go around was mishandled and the aircraft began to descend after initially climbing which triggered EGPWS Warnings and controller alerting before recovery was achieved. It was suspected that surprise at the go-around and the early climbing turn required may have initiated the crew’s mismanagement of automated flight path control with further surprise leading to failure to revert to manual control when they no longer understood the automated system responses to their inputs.

On 27 February 2023, an Embraer 190 was flaring for an imminent night touchdown on runway 04R at Boston in normal visibility when a Learjet 60 began takeoff from intersecting runway 09. As the Embraer descended through 30 feet AGL, the Learjet entered runway 04R, taking two seconds to cross it. The incursion had triggered an ATC alert and just after the crossing, the Embraer was instructed to go around and did so from around 10 feet AGL. The Investigation found that the Learjet crew correctly read back their line up and wait clearance but then took off without clearance.

On 18 October 2022, an Airbus A321 on approach to Venice in thick fog was observed on TCAS by a Boeing 737-800 crew awaiting takeoff clearance from the same runway after a lineup and wait instruction. When no takeoff clearance followed, the 737 crew transmitted, advising its position without any response. The crew then transmitted on 121.5, instructing the A321 to go around, and they received no response. They were about to vacate the runway when the controller instructed the A321 to go around, which only  occurred as it approached 100 feet AGL. The controller involved had failed to plug in his headset properly.

On 11 October 2019, an Embraer ERJ195LR abandoned an initial landing attempt at Warsaw after a hard bounce but the correct go-around procedure was not followed. The rate of climb rapidly increased to over 4000 feet per minute. Concurrently, the required engine thrust was not set and airspeed rapidly diminished to a point where the stick shaker was activated. Stall and Upset Recovery procedures were not correctly followed and the aircraft commander was slow to take control of the situation. Full control was regained at 1,200 feet above ground level and a subsequent approach and landing were without further event.

On 21 October 2020, an Embraer ERJ170 on short final at Paris CDG responded to a Windshear Warning by breaking off the approach and climbing. The Warning soon stopped but when the aircraft drifted sideways in the strong crosswind towards the adjacent parallel runway from which an Airbus A320 had just taken off, an STCA was quickly followed by a TCAS RA event. The Investigation was concerned at the implications of failure to climb straight ahead from parallel runways during unexpected go-arounds. Safety Recommendations were made on risk management of parallel runway operations by both pilots and safety regulators.

On 20 July 2020, a Boeing 787-10 making an ILS approach to runway 09L at Paris CDG unexpectedly received landing clearance for runway 09R after transferring to TWR. The crew readback added explicit reference to the implied need to sidestep but elicited no further controller response and visual realignment to 09R followed. The controller then cleared a departing A320 to enter 09R but when its crew saw the 787 on very short final after crossing the holding point, they stopped, informed TWR and directly instructed the 787 to go-around. Investigation confirmed the controller’s error and noted their failure to monitor approaching traffic.

On 23 January 2020, a Bombardier CRJ700 making a HUD-supported manual Cat 3a ILS approach to Lyon Saint-Exupéry in freezing fog conditions deviated from the required flight path localiser and reached a minimum of 265 feet agl before a go around was initiated without initially being flown in accordance with standard procedures. The Captain involved was relatively new to type and had not previously flown such an approach in actual low visibility conditions. The Investigation was not able to determine exactly what contributed to the approach and initial go around being misflown but identified a number of possible contributors.

On 28 April 2018, a Dassault Falcon F900B came into close proximity with a Beech B36T Bonanza at the uncontrolled VFR-only aerodrome at Bremgarten during its tailwind approach to runway 23 made without contacting the designated Flight Information frequency as the other aircraft was on approach to runway-in-use 05 and in contact with Flight Information. The Beech pilot took avoiding action by turning north and climbing in order to avoid a collision. The Falcon 900 crew had not prepared for the approach which was then unstabilised with late gear extension and multiple EGPWS ‘SINK RATE’ warnings annunciated.

On 2 January 2022, an Airbus A350-1000 floated during the landing flare at London Heathrow and when a go-around was commenced, a tail strike accompanied main landing gear runway contact. A subsequent further approach during which the Captain took over as handling pilot was completed uneventfully. The Investigation attributed the tailstrike to a full pitch up input made simultaneously with the selection of maximum thrust when very close to the runway surface, noting that although the initial touchdown had been just beyond the touchdown zone, 2,760 metres of runway remained ahead when the go around decision was made.

On 29 November 2017, a Boeing 737-900 on an ILS approach at Atlanta became unstable after the autothrottle and autopilot were both disconnected and was erroneously aligned with an occupied taxiway parallel to the intended landing runway. A go-around was not commenced until the aircraft was 50 feet above the ground after which it passed low over another aircraft on the taxiway. The Investigation found that the Captain had not called for a go around until well below the Decision Altitude and had then failed to promptly take control when the First Officer was slow to begin climbing the aircraft.

On 1 January 2020, an Airbus A350-900 made an unstabilised night ILS approach to Frankfurt in good visual conditions, descending prematurely and coming within 668 feet of terrain when 6nm from the intended landing runway before climbing to position for another approach. A loss of situational awareness was attributed to a combination of waypoint input errors, inappropriate autoflight management and communication and cooperation deficiencies amongst the operating and augmenting flight crew on the flight deck.

Further Reading

EUROCONTROL, European Regions Airline Association, and Flight Safety Foundation

Flight Safety Foundation

The Flight Safety Foundation ALAR Toolkit provides useful training information and guides to best practice. Copies of the FSF ALAR Toolkit may be ordered from the Flight Safety Foundation ALAR website.

Flight Data Services Case Studies

Go-Around Safety Forum

Airbus Descent Management Briefing Notes



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