BigJet TV and Heathrow landings during Eunice

Today, many thousands of people watched planes land at Heathrow during Eunice, live-streamed on YouTube by BigJet TV. Eunice was a beast of a storm with pedestrians in London literally being blown away and rolling and somersaulting across the tarmac of streets and a big hole being torn into the O2.

There’s something I want to say about that.

When pilots opt for a go-around – which is their own decision and nobody else’s – that means that they came in to see what the conditions are like to decide if and what they need to fine-tune to achieve a safe landing and whether in their personal view that safe landing is at all possible.

When they go around, it is not due to personal “lack of confidence”. It has little to do with lack of skills and nothing with weakness of character.

A plane can move around three axes, and if you want to land in a crazy storm, you have to be able to coordinate these three movements pretty precisely in order to land the plane well. But that’s far from all. (Think speed, for example, to mention something simple.)

(It’s also theoretically possible that a captain feels that a plane is a bit too heavy and goes around to burn fuel so that the plane is less likely to slam hard onto the tarmac.)

The experienced and skilled captain knows what the limits and strengths of the plane are but also knows very well what his or her own limits and strengths are.

Yes, it is true that circumstances can change from minute to minute, certainly with these sudden gusts, and that that too plays a role.

A go-around is often a little like taking a spoonful from a dish that you are making and assessing what it tastes like so that you can decide that it needs a little bit more pepper or a little bit more cream.

(Just 2 cents from a former wannabe pilot.)

Below are two shots of that massive Qatar Airways Dreamliner that went around twice and made a pretty smooth-looking landing on its third attempt.



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