Monday, March 12, 2007

As I re-read this article, I was struck by one quote;

"I don't understand why they didn't 'touch and go' (take off again and re-land). There was a huge bang and that was it."

Why not go around? A very good question, indeed. If I had a choice between being five minutes late and being toast, I know which one I would choose. But I am merely a private pilot, and the worst consequence for me of going around is paying an extra 0.1 on the hobbs. If I was an aviation professional, with years of experience and a lot of time and $$$ invested in my career as an airline pilot, things would be different. Reputations are at stake, questions would be asked, perhaps remedial training would be in order, perhaps a promotion delayed. Airlines would do well to put their own houses in order and ensure that the consequences of a go around are not something a pilot should fear.

Military pilots have a saying that it is better to die than look bad. Although it's tongue in cheek, there is a real element of truth to it. Aviation is a confidence game, you have to believe in your own infallibility, which tends to inflate the ego somewhat. Some pilots will do anything to avoid looking bad in the eyes of others, and if they discount in their minds the possibility of catastrophe, then a go around becomes unthinkable. This is where crew resource management is supposed to kick in, the theory being that although you might be willing to die for the sake of your own reputation, don't expect the same from your co-pilot. But what if the co-pilot is insufficiently experienced to recognise the danger in a situation, or is afraid to speak up and embarrass his captain?

So why not go around? The answer is probably a combination of the above - fear of retribution from ones employer, and the concern not to have ones reputation suffer.

There is a further possibility - and that is that the aircraft was not in a position to safely go around. Turbine engines take a few seconds to spool up, speed brakes need to retract, flaps take time to transition - if there was insufficient runway for all this to occur and still allow the aircraft to take off again, the most prudent course of action may well have been to ride it out.


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