Pilots are peculiar people, aren’t we? We spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours learning to fly in search of the best $200 hamburger (inflation). After each check ride we puff our chest out and hold our head up a bit higher. For good reason, right? Being a pilot is as cool as it gets.
Flying for an airline in the 121 world has many benefits also. Jump-seats, meal service and of course wearing the ice cream shirt! As airline pilots we do our very best to get from point A to B as quickly and safely as possible. At my company this summer, we launched over one thousand flights a day and we rarely heard anything about them as they came and went. Occasionally plans change due to weather or maintenance and sometimes we had to go around.
You remember those don’t you? A bright sunny day, runway in sight and of course your instructor tells you to go around! As you fumble for the gear and flaps you think, this is going to be expensive. As airline pilots we call it, making money. I’m guessing that the last time you did a go around was on that checkout before renting a new airplane. Naturally, we want to land and do just that most of the time. There are those occasions when a go around isn’t just a good idea…. it’s mandatory.
ILS 13L into JFK has a few challenges. First, it’s rarely used due to the proximity of LGA and their operations. Second, it only has CAT I and II capability during low IFR approaches. Recently while being vectored for this approach, the First Officer and myself found ourselves “making money”.
Approach control was busy and doing a great job getting airplanes in every 2 minutes or so. CAT II approaches were in use and as each flight dipped into the fog they touch downed on the damp runway. We were in the string of traffic setup for our approach and landing. I noticed that we were creeping up on the aircraft ahead but we maintained speed discipline and complied with all instructions. The guy in front of us must have slowed and we were getting squeezed up on him. With the low vis and tricky approach I turned to the First Officer and said, “Let’s just go around”. We executed the missed per our procedures and notified tower. They agreed on the call and vectored us for another approach and uneventful landing. We do go arounds during every training event at work. Not just one or two but multiple over the course of three days. Our reflexes were automatic and precise. Naturally.
So go and fly for breakfast in Venice or lunch in St. Augustine. Continue to enjoy all the perks of being a pilot. Once in a while practice and do a go around. You never know when you’ll need it, just don’t look at the Hobbs.