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Rejected Landings

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Category: Runway Excursion Runway Excursion
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Baulked Landing


In most cases, a missed approach is begun at or before the applicable DA or MDA for the approach being flown. Because any later decision to go around must have followed an earlier positive decision by PF to continue to a landing, it is often described as a rejected landing or a baulked landing, although neither term has any formal definition. It may or may not involve at least part of the landing gear contacting the runway and in extreme cases, touchdown may have occurred on all main landing gear units.

A decision to reject a landing which has previously been judged achievable with safety is often the only way to avoid aircraft damage through a Loss of Control near to or on the runway, which may also culminate in a Runway Excursion outcome. This could be the result of a sudden deterioration in forward visibility or extreme wind velocity variations. It may even be the only way to avoid a runway collision if a Runway Incursion occurs at a late stage.

The Decision to Land

Flight Crew are routinely conditioned during normal training regimes to make what is often seen as a final decision to ‘Land’ or ‘Go Around’ at the designated DA / DH or MDA / MDH for an approach. At this decision point, a call of ‘Decide’ is made by the PM and if the response by PF is ‘Land’ this course of action is sustained to a successful landing on nearly every occasion. The effect of this is to make most flight crew ‘land - minded’ in the same way that current flight training, with its Stabilised Approach gates and Non-Precision Approach flown by a Continuous Descent Final Approach (CDFA) encourages crews to be ‘go-around minded’ prior to that point. The experience of accidents and incidents has shown that this commitment to land acts as a powerful force in response to the unexpected just prior to or during a landing and that, when presented with a runway incursion or potential loss of control on the runway, the option of a rejected landing is not always considered.

An Opportunity

A rejected landing is a last opportunity to avoid completing an ill-advised landing attempt, which has a high probability of ending up as some form of Runway Excursion. Flight Crew are wise if they take advantage of it when it is clear that they may lose full control of their aircraft if they continue to a landing which was anticipated, only a few seconds earlier, by the usual response to the ‘Decide’ call.

Aircraft Type Issues

Whilst a missed approach can be begun on all aircraft types prior to all main gear making runway contact (and if runway contact by both main gear subsequently occurs during the transition from descent to climbing away), for some aircraft types deciding to reject a landing once all main gear assemblies have made runway contact may not be allowable under the Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM). It is therefore essential for flight crew to familiarise themselves with any limitations which may be applicable to their aircraft type in this respect.

Obstacle Clearance

Because the go around is initiated beyond and below the published missed approach point, obstacle clearance may be compromised. In most cases this is not a significant factor but, if the published missed approach has a turn which starts at the MAP or if there is a non standard gradient published, obstacle clearance becomes an issue. In these cases, use of the engine failure on takeoff flightpath for the runway in use, if one exists, instead of the missed approach procedure, would provide the appropriate safety. Obviously, this eventuality would have to be considered as part of the approach planning - it is simply too late at the baulked landing decision point to try and come up with an alternate plan.

At a very few airports, mostly in mountainous areas, a baulked landing at a late stage will put the aircraft in severe danger of terrain impact.

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