Do You Know About The "Missed Approach" Procedure?

When your plane is about to land, something completely safe could frighten you.

Posted Nov 15, 2017

Everyone who flies needs to know about this. It's a standard procedure, but since it isn't used often, if you don't know about it, it could really frighten you. A client emailed about her first "missed approach" experience frightened her.

I bought and did your course three months ago and talked to you on the phone from New Zealand. I had five flights ahead of me including long haul and a very small mountain plane flight. Happy to say that the first two flights were best yet. I think due to the course and exercises.

Flight 3 was unplanned small mountain small that you had to crouch down to walk up the aisle with one seat each side and propellers Nepal. I didn't cope very well. But made it.....was only 25 mins.

The next day was back on bigger plane 777-300 and I felt heaps better. ....BUT the flight was smooth until we are just about to land two minutes from touchdown at Kuala Lumpur .....then suddenly the plane fires up......and pulls up and starts climbing (taking off again FAST)... And NOTHING from the captain.... no communication. even my fearless husband freaking! Then it seemed we were circling and a WHOLE 10 mins later they finally tell us an issue with the airport but now cleared to land and all was good. was a scary 10 mins on a Malaysian airlines planes doing random things! I have to take my last flight home in seven days on the same airline - long haul 10 hrs and I am extremely anxious and v tempted to find a way home overland.

What can I do - please help!

Here's my response:


This info is in the SOAR Fear of Flying Course, but not everyone remembers it. You need to, because - though it is rare - if it happens, you need to know what is going on.

When pilots approach the runway, before they touch the runway with the wheels, they must receive landing clearance from the control tower.

Typically, planes are spaced about five miles behind each other as they approach the runway. This spacing - USUALLY - allows enough time for the plane ahead to clear the runway by turning onto a taxiway. The exits are spaced about 1000 feet apart. Occasionally, as a plane, after landing, is slowing down, they are planning to exit at a certain point but as they approach it, they are still going too fast to make the 90 degree turn onto the exit.

This means that have to continue down another 1000 feet on the runway, and are not moving fast. This takes time, and the plane approaching the runway cannot be cleared to land. Thus, the plane does a "missed approach" maneuver which is the same as though they were approaching the runway in clouds and did not see the runway when reaching the altitude at which they must see the runway to land.

The missed approach maneuver is dramatic. Full power. Nose up steeply. This is so that, if this was in clouds, the plane quickly climbs above anything (ground, hill, tower) it could fly into. The pilots are not allowed to say anything to the passengers when this near to the ground, and have to announce "missed approach" to the tower, change radio frequency to the radar controller for the area around the airport, and fly around under radar direction (or, if there is no radar, under their own navigation) to get back around to do another approach.

From a pilots point of view, this is a completely normal procedure. It is a procedure used either in cloudy conditions, as mentioned, and in case the plane ahead of them can't get off the runway in time for them to land.

I appreciate that you were frightened by it. But now that you have experienced it, and now understand it is normal under certain conditions, you will know what is going on next time, even though the pilot cannot tell you what is going on. It certainly does not mean you should not fly. It certainly doesn't mean you should not fly this airline.

The fact that you were frightened and believed you were in danger does not mean you were in danger, regardless of what you or others thought. You need to now look back, and update the total experience in light of the information I am giving you.

To help deal with this emotionally, put the experience into the strengthening exercise, bit by bit. If doing it stresses you, imagine a cartoon character is experiencing the (standard) missed approach maneuver

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