Touch and Go

Definition

An operation by an aircraft that lands and departs on a runway without stopping or exiting the runway.

Source: FAA JO 7110.65 ATC

Description

Touch-and-go essentially joins two manoeuvres into one - the aircraft lands on the runway, then accelerates and takes off again. The procedure is normally practiced during flight training but is sometimes used as a form of aborted landing after touchdown.

An example of the path of an aircraft performing a touch and go.

The advantages of touch-and-go include:

  • Both actions (take off and landing) are performed (as opposed to low approach)
  • Short runway occupancy (as opposed to e.g. a stop and go or a landing and backtrack for another take off)
  • Shorter duration, meaning more cycles can be done per hour (as opposed to e.g. stop and go or full stop landing and taxi-back take off)
  • The procedure itself can be performed in a real situation (aborted landing after touchdown)

The procedure offers some specific challenges that need to be considered when deciding whtether it is appropriate to perform it, e.g.:

  • The procedure is more demanding on the pilot as they must quickly switch their mindset from trying to land to getting back in the air while changing the aircraft configuration accordingly.
  • There may not be enough runway available. For various reasons (runway length, wind, landing technique, etc.) it is possible that the remaining runway is insufficient for a safe take off. The decision whether to continue as planned or abort the take off part may need to be done very quickly, and in combination with switching the aircraft from one configuration to the other.
  • Not doing it properly may defeat the purpose of the exercise. The main objective of a touch and go is to practice the two manoeuvres. That means the takeoff part is only supposed to be initiated when the aircraft is firmly on the ground and has decellerated. Sometimes due to e.g. having a shorter runway, a delayed touchdown, etc. the landing part is performed differently compared to the full-stop scenario, e.g. almost simultaneous touchdown of all wheels (to save time), no decelleration, etc.
  • There is more stress on the engine as it has to quickly go from a relatively cold condition (typical for landing) to a full power state (expected for take off).

The performance of touch-and-go instead of a landing must be communicated to air traffic control so that they may plan the traffic flow accordingly. Sometimes it would not be safe to approve a touch-and-go and the controller would clear the pilot for a full stop landing.

Similar Manoeuvres

There are some manoeuvres that can be viewed as an alternative to touch-and-go and are also used in flight training:

  • Stop and go - the aircraft comes to a complete stop and then starts a take off roll. This option is often preferable to touch-and-go as it is less demanding for the pilot. This is because the two actions are split - the pilots first focuses on the landing and only when this task is complete, they turn their attention to take-off. Also, there is some time to switch between the tasks which is not the case with touch-and-go. The downside is that stop-and-go requires a longer runway and the aircraft needs to stay on the runway for a longer period of time. Sometimes these requirements cannot be satisfied due to e.g. busy traffic or the runway being too short.

An example of the path of an aircraft, performing a stop and go. The green part is the landing, the blue clock indicates the time when the aircraft is stopped preparing for take off and the pink part is the take off.

  • Low approach - a combination of an approach and a go-around. The aircraft does not touch the runway (unlike touch-and-go/stop-and-go). Unlike missed approach, the aircraft does not start climbing at the missed aprroach point but continues to fly at this height instead. The climb starts at a later point, e.g. after overflying the runway end.

An example of the path of an aircraft, performing a low approach. The flight descends to the minimum descent altitude (or decision altitude) and maintains it until passing over the runway end.

An example of the path of an aircraft, performing a go around. The flight descends to the minimum descent altitude (or decision altitude) and then starts to climb. Note that in a real life situation the procedure may start before reaching the MDA/DA and sometimes after that.

  • Full-stop landing followed by a taxi-back take-off. The aircraft exits the runway (as if this were the end of the flight) and then taxies to the holding point. Sometimes (wind and traffic permitting) a backtrack can be used to take off from the opposite direction. The advantage of this option is that it fully represents both parts of the flight. The downside is that it is the most time consuming.

An example of the path of an aircraft, performing a taxi-back for take off.

Cleared for the option

Note: The procedure described in this section is used in the United States and the United Kingdom (and possibly, other countries). It is not a universally adopted ICAO procedure.

The "Cleared for the Option" procedure will permit an instructor, flight examiner or pilot the option to make a choice between:

  • touch−and−go
  • low approach
  • missed approach
  • stop−and−go
  • full stop landing

This procedure can be very beneficial in a training situation in that neither the student pilot nor examinee would know what maneuver would be accomplished. The pilot should make a request for this procedure passing the final approach fix inbound on an instrument approach or entering downwind for a VFR traffic pattern.

The advantages of this procedure as a training aid are that it enables an instructor or examiner to obtain the reaction of a trainee or examinee under changing conditions, the pilot would not have to discontinue an approach in the middle of the procedure due to student error or pilot proficiency requirements, and finally it allows more flexibility and economy in training programs. This procedure will only be used at those locations with an operational control tower and will be subject to ATC approval.

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