Pilot's tip of the week

Multiple Missed Approaches


Subscriber question:

"As instrument pilots, we know how to fly an approach to minimums and then, if the runway environment is not visible, fly the missed approach procedure. But when is it a good decision to try the approach again? When is it advisable to go to an alternate airport?" - Vincent B.


“Unfortunately, it’s a common IFR error to try a single approach again and again, until impatience, stress or fuel issues result in an accident.

To better manage the risks and temptations of flying multiple instrument approaches, first and foremost you must commit to flying the procedure precisely and by the book. Remember that fatigue, complacency, and temptation to fly just a little lower are constant threats when flying multiple attempts at an approach in low IFR conditions. These threats are what make multiple approaches more dangerous than the first.

multiple_missed_approaches2.pngTo survive the risks of multiple approach attempts I offer this Multiple Approach Survival Guide. If you miss an instrument approach, do not attempt the same approach again unless one of these three conditions exists:

1. You have good reason to believe that the weather conditions that required you to miss were temporary and that they’ll improve in time for your second attempt.

2. You can identify a specific technique or part of the procedure you flew incorrectly that caused you to miss, and which you can honestly say you’ll get right the next time. For example, you may not have been completely set up at the final approach fix the first time, and were behind the airplane for the entire approach. This time you will be certain to be in configuration and on speed before the fix.

3. You’re facing a true emergency and because of equipment failure, unforeseen weather conditions or your own poor planning you have no better options within your remaining range and you must try again before you run out of fuel—a truly dire scenario.

If none of these three conditions apply and you attempt a second approach anyway, you’re just wasting time and the fuel you need to get somewhere else with better conditions or lower approach minimums. More importantly, you’re tempting the human failings that often turn multiple approaches into accident reports.”

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