My First Aborted Landing (Scary!)

by Miguel R. Quinones


You are flying into your home airport. You have flown into this airport hundreds of times, so you know exactly what is supposed to happen every step of the way for those last few seconds before landing. And then, as you begin to expect the aircraft to touch down at any moment, the thrust of the engines intensifies and instead of touching down the aircraft begins ascending rapidly. That is exactly what happened to me a few days ago on an Avianca flight from Bogotá to San Juan.

I have been extremely lucky when it comes to flying. I have never experienced an emergency landing. I have only had one cancellation (due to a strike, so it was known days in advance). Significant delays have been rare and I can count with one hand the number of times turbulence has been scary.

I was well aware of what an aborted landing or go-around was and instantly recognized what was happening. However, not knowing why this happened immediately afterwards made me really nervous for a few seconds. I assumed the pilot had decided to do a go-around in order to avoid a collision, but I had no idea if by aborting the landing we were already safe or if there was still any danger.

About a minute after the maneuver, the pilot calmly explained what had happened. Apparently there was a vehicle in the middle of our runaway. Not sure if the pilot was instructed to abort the landing or if it was him who noticed the vehicle and decided to abort the landing. The important thing is that somebody noticed the vehicle and that we were safe.

About 15 minutes later we landed without incident. Although perfectly normal, I sure hope not to experience an aborted landing ever again.

Have you experienced an aborted landing?

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Nico April 14, 2016 - 12:49 pm

Just experienced my first a few months ago. It was my wife’s fourth if you count the 3 THRE!!!) times the pilot aborted when trying to land in a rainstorm in Belize a few years ago. Our recent experience was very scary. Apparently our home airport only has one runway open at night (perhaps only in winter?). There was a strong crosswind that had the plane teetering much more than is normal the whole way down. At the time, I was concerned a wing might be the first thing to touch down. Anyway, we were probably only five feet from the ground when the pilot gunned it and went back up. A few minutes later he calmly explained the one runway/crosswind situation and that the airport was going to open another runway so we could land info the wind. It wasn’t fun, but I’m glad the pilot made the tough decision rather than trying to unsafely force it.

Tom April 14, 2016 - 12:51 pm

It might be a big deal for you, but it’s a non-event for the pilots and ATC. Even if it was to maintain spacing, it’s very unlikely that it was a near-miss situation. The pilot may have just been unhappy with the wind or didn’t have the aircraft configured in enough time for the landing.

Miguel R. Quinones April 14, 2016 - 6:03 pm

Tom, all along I was fully aware of how normal this is. Not knowing why it was happening for about a minute was the only concerning aspect.

Tyler April 14, 2016 - 1:12 pm

I’ve only had one. I was flying in to Seattle and it was very windy. The plane felt like it was bouncing around the entire approach. We were close to the ground and the pilot fired up the engines to lift off and try again. Second try it was still very windy but the pilot put it down nice and easy. I was connecting in Seattle so I sat looking out the window watching other planes land and I saw one other plane have to go around.

Lionel April 14, 2016 - 2:13 pm

I made a lot of Go Around but by myself (I am a private pilot 😉
Fully agreed with the previous comments: the safety is the decision to abord the landing rather to force it. So I fully understand that the situation of ‘not knowing why’ could be very uncomfortable but alway think that your pilot decided a safer situation rather that forcing the landing.
Warm regards

paul v April 14, 2016 - 4:39 pm

It’s really not a big deal… better to abort than do something dangerous. Pilots practice this, if not in real life then in their periodic emergency procedures simulator evals. As a retired military aviator I’ve done MANY, as a passenger on commercial airlines probably a dozen, and as a private pilot flying little single planes a few. I just see it as an adventure (and hope I make my connection)

Charles April 14, 2016 - 4:57 pm

Had many aborted landings. They were always based on the runway not being totally clear at the moment of decision. You know that the preceding aircraft is going to move but what if it became disabled? It seems some airlines (LH) have extremely strict rules and the pilot is not even permitted to use judgement.

Marty dee April 15, 2016 - 7:09 pm

Happened to me on on AA MD80 to MKE ..very scary when I started hearing the engines again .The pilot did apologize and we landed about 15
Min later . It was a snowy day which made it even scarier.


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