The Almost Impossible Go-Around
On Sunday I went with 3 passengers to 100 Mile House for a nice day trip. I fly a 172 with an 0-360 and wing extensions that give me a 2700 lb gross weight. We were at under 2400 lbs for the landing. It was a clear day and cold but there was a stiff north/northwest wind. The 2200' paved runway at 100 Mile is 08/26 and 08 slopes upward 2.5%. I had done performance calculations for this location, the conditions and my airplane.
The CFS says "Recommend downhill tkof Rwy 26 & uphill ldg Rwy 08 when wind cond permit. CAUTION Severe downdrafts may be encountered when taking off to the E. P-line 40´ high adj E of A/D. Hill 3940 ASL 0.5NM E. Watch for bird activity from adj sanctuary."
Joining the pattern, the windsocks were straight down - no wind - so far so good. The wind from the north though blows over a 300 to 500 foot ridge that parallels the runway. On final, everything looked good until very short. Just over the numbers, in the flair at about 10' I ballooned in some shear to about 20'. I was going to land long on a short runway, so I immediately hit full power for a go around. In the go-around, it seemed like I encountered more shear, this time from the rear and my climb was sluggish. I pulled up some flaps but the climb still seemed slower than I thought it should be. You bring flaps from 30 to 10 and it feels like your sinking even though I was probably just not climbing as fast. Now i'm heading over town, towards obstructions and the 700' hill just to the east of town. My track from ForeFlight opened in Google Earth indicated that I was 60' up at 70 mph about 400' before I crossed Hwy 97. That's certainly better than it felt in the moment. By the time I'm over the middle of town 8 seconds later, I'm at 130' AGL, at 75 mph and turning left, away from the hill and back to the airport. It all worked out, the second attempt was successful and my passengers didn't seem flussed at all. I was though and here are my takeaways...
1) I was not as prepared as I thought I was. I read the CFS and thought I had it all figured out. But a go-around is never planned and a go-around is a type of takeoff. With a little tail gust from the rolling winds coming over the ridge, it turns into a sketchy takeoff on a runway where takeoffs are not recommended. Next time I go to an unfamiliar airport, i'm going to think hard about what a go-around will put me up against.
2) If there had been fog or smoke east of the runway obscuring my go around, or higher obstructions or a bigger tail gust on climb out, I could have been in trouble. If I was heavier and it was mid July, I could have been in trouble.
3) We were only staying for lunch. At a one way in, one way out strip, a steady breeze is a big problem. It will be the wrong way for landing or for taking off unless it does a 180 for you.
4) The next time I go to CAV3 (100 Mile) for a bite to eat, it better be calm on the runway, and and no cross winds 300' up on a windward ridge. Those rolling, buffeting winds can cause unpredictable conditions. I should have been able to predict that unpredictable could happen. Think about what happens behind a boulder on a fast moving river.
5) I occasionally practice go-arounds. I'm going to practice them a lot more than occasionally.
6) It's been hammered into me that if you are at all thinking about a go-around, IT'S TIME TO GO AROUND! At least I did that right. Landing long would have really sucked there.
I learned a lot from this. I'm going to think long and hard about Plan B's and C's and worse case scenarios. We get "free" lessons occasionally...those with few consequences but big warnings. I consider this one of my biggest learning moments so far in my short flying career. Any thoughts out there?
A Sample of Feedback From Fellow Members
- I had a similar experience in a lightly loaded Cherokee 140. I took off towards town due to a strong wind down the runway but like you it just wouldn’t climb. Just when I was starting to really “pucker” the speed and vertical speed very slowly started to go up. I love visiting there but it’s not a runway for the faint of heart (or horsepower)!
- In my world, they want us to treat going around as "Plan A", landing as "Plan B". It helps us ensure we are very familiar and comfortable with the missed approach plan. That's being said, humans are humans and we normalize landings 100% of the time because we rarely go-around. You're here telling the story, so good on ya. Learning from it is half the fun of flying. Good work.
- REFLECTION BY JEFF / Something else creeps into this too - the trap of having to complete the mission. What I didn't say in my story was that two planes flew to CAV3 that day. The first one, with our friends on board was already on the ground. After the go around, maybe I should have diverted. But the mission was to all go for lunch. That pulls and it's something we all have to be honest about with ourselves. In all the potential pitfalls we face, this mission-complex scares me the most. Even 20,000 hour pilots are lured into completing flights that they shouldn't, for many reasons that are tempting and real. But that's a big topic for another day...
- Thank you for sharing this. Gives me something to consider and practice more!
- One of the things i do on first landings at strips like 100 and Rowenas is to do a low and over. I usually do it at 15 flaps and about 10mph above landing speed and 5 to 10' above the runway. It gives me the speed to pull up and go around(plan A) and also the chance to feel any wierd winds etc and just double check the runway.This has worked well for me when playing off airport. But as alway the OOPS is always hiding just around the corner.
- An excellent report and summary, thanks. Brings back a few very hairy moments in similar situations. Always good and healthy to read and absorb these types of stories to avoid complacency.
- You are to be commended for sharing your experience with the group. 100 Mile House is a favourite breakfast/lunch destination about an hour away for the Vernon group - a nice Sunday morning flight. Due to the runway characteristics and possible adverse wind conditions, landing at 100 Mile can be challenging even with our lightly loaded (in comparison) RVs. However, the 2.5% runway slope does have a positive effect on landing and take-off. I have a copy of a POH for a 1978 Skyhawk; under Normal Procedures/Balked Landing it indicates “In the event of a balked landing (go-around), reduce the flap setting to 20 degrees immediately after full power is applied.” Given that the runway slope is in your favour, I’m thinking that an approach using 20 degree of flap might be useful? The uphill landing would compensate for the lower flap setting and, even maybe more important, you’d be at the optimum flap setting in the event of a go-around. Thanks again for sharing.
- Great and technically sound flight review! ....I guess one other thing a pilot could do would be a very lightly loaded trial run, in each direction, to really experience the 'what if' with the largest margins possible?...then you have some info to manage operations with passengers and winds that shave down those margins. Well done!
- Great write up, and kudos for an above average level of planning and situational awareness. Visualizing the air flow over terrain and predicting the degree that it can impact aircraft performance is not a skill that can be quickly learned in a two hour "mountain checkout." Without detracting for your story, there are two other points worth mentioning. The performance numbers are derived with a brand new aircraft/engine by test pilots and it doesn't take much on either the piloting or mechanical part of that equation to fall significantly short of those numbers. The second point is that you alluded to having a pre-determined go around point in the approach or landing. Absolutely essential for this kind of flying but I would also suggest an additional pre-determined "no go around" point. Many accidents have been caused by late go arounds. And the injuries and aircraft damage caused by hitting something on climbout or stalling are always far worse than going off the end of the runway. On some of the strips with challenging terrain or when flying very marginally performing airplanes, this commit to land point could even be prior to touchdown on approach. The old Hastings strip on Pender Island was an example of this.
- Great Article. Complacency is a pilots worst enemy. Here a good 100 Mile photo that gives substance to the challenges you experienced.