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Old Aug 24, 11, 1:34 am   #1
 
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Curious about aborted landing

I recently took a flight from New York to San Francisco. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and visibility seemed good. As the plane approached the runway everything seemed normal. The wheels touched down on the runway and we started to slow. The pilot began to apply the brakes a little harder and we slowed even more.

But about a second later he hit the thrust (I am in no way technical, basically he seemed to switch from braking to accelerating) and we took off suddenly at a 45-degree angle. It was so sudden and really freaky because it didn't feel like we were going fast enough to take off - the plane felt like it was struggling to climb. Still, we climbed and climbed, and a few minutes later we'd broken through the clouds. At that point the pilot came on simply to say we'd be trying the landing again. I might have been imagining it but he sounded like he was choosing his words very carefully! We went round and landed no problem ten minutes later. We never got any explanation about what happened.

I'm just wondering a) what's the likely explanation for that kind of aborted landing and b) how common is that kind of aborted landing? I fly a lot but have never known anything like it.

Thanks!
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Old Aug 24, 11, 4:24 am   #2
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmb1985 View Post
I recently took a flight from New York to San Francisco. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and visibility seemed good. As the plane approached the runway everything seemed normal. The wheels touched down on the runway and we started to slow. The pilot began to apply the brakes a little harder and we slowed even more.

But about a second later he hit the thrust (I am in no way technical, basically he seemed to switch from braking to accelerating) and we took off suddenly at a 45-degree angle. It was so sudden and really freaky because it didn't feel like we were going fast enough to take off - the plane felt like it was struggling to climb. Still, we climbed and climbed, and a few minutes later we'd broken through the clouds. At that point the pilot came on simply to say we'd be trying the landing again. I might have been imagining it but he sounded like he was choosing his words very carefully! We went round and landed no problem ten minutes later. We never got any explanation about what happened.

I'm just wondering a) what's the likely explanation for that kind of aborted landing and b) how common is that kind of aborted landing? I fly a lot but have never known anything like it.

Thanks!
Most likely a runway incursion ahead - such as another plane or vehicle on or close to the runway. Usually in this case, air traffic control will radio the pilot, "(callsign) GO AROUND. (callsign) GO AROUND." Less likely is that the pilot saw something he/she didn't like, and did it on his/her own.

I've had it happen a few times, both as a passenger and jumpseat rider. It happens often enough if you look at all landings around the world, but for an individual passenger it's a pretty rare event.
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Old Aug 24, 11, 5:35 am   #3
 
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If you remember the time, go to www.liveatc.net and you can find archives of ATC from time and see if you can hear what happened to cause the go-around.
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Old Aug 24, 11, 5:37 am   #4
 
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Depending on the aircraft type, and particularly Boeing v. Airbus, it could have neen any number of things. The first few moments after landing are pretty busy. It could have been a warning light indication concerning the thrust reversers, which require a "squat" switch to be fully compressed by weight on the wheels, to be fully armed for deployment. Or a momentary hydraulic pressure warning light. Or something as rare as a momentary extinguishment of the nose wheel down and locked light. But it was more likely, as a prior poster mentioned, a tower initiated go-around for some reason such as a runway incursion or a problem with a "hold short" instruction not being read back (confirmed).
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Old Aug 24, 11, 7:18 am   #5
 
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Thanks so much for your replies. It's really interesting to find out what it might have been and to hear it's relatively common. I've just recalled that, as we left the plane, announcements were being made to passengers at the gate saying the outgoing flight on our plane was being delayed due to technical problems with the aircraft. Might that indicate a problem with the actual aircraft, or is it likely that's just a standard announcement and they were just checking the plane over?
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Old Aug 24, 11, 8:19 am   #6
 
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Originally Posted by 4nsicdoc View Post
But it was more likely, as a prior poster mentioned, a tower initiated go-around for some reason such as a runway incursion or a problem with a "hold short" instruction not being read back (confirmed).
Or simply a long landing with the pilot realizing there wasn't enough runway left to stop.

Climb angles are deceiving to passengers. I guarantee it wasn't 45 degrees, more like half that or less.
Quote:
I've just recalled that, as we left the plane, announcements were being made to passengers at the gate saying the outgoing flight on our plane was being delayed due to technical problems with the aircraft. Might that indicate a problem with the actual aircraft, or is it likely that's just a standard announcement and they were just checking the plane over?
No, that's not standard. Sounds like there was some caution warning during the rollout for which the procedure is to abort the landing. Software probably needed a reboot.
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Old Aug 24, 11, 8:47 am   #7
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Here's my SFO-specific guess: You were landing on runway 28-Left. Another plane had just landed on 28-Right. When planes taxi from 28R to the terminal, they have to cross 28L. Standard procedure is to turn off 28R and hold short of 28L to wait for landing traffic. A possible explanation is the 28R plane stopped but didn't quite hold short, was sticking into your runway, and couldn't clear fast enough from a stop.

Just a guess, tho. There's usually plenty of separation to deal with these things. Would be interesting if you found the liveatc audio and let us know.

(It should be reassuring to know these jets can take off from a landing-in-progress with no real difficulty...)
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Old Aug 24, 11, 4:20 pm   #8
 
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Originally Posted by Wally Bird View Post
Climb angles are deceiving to passengers. I guarantee it wasn't 45 degrees, more like half that or less.
The reason it's deceiving is because you're accelerating, so your body's view of what's "down" is shifted off the vertical.
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Old Aug 24, 11, 4:28 pm   #9
 
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I have had this to happen twice, both on WN 737's. Exciting wasn't it?

First was a sudden blinding downpour in a southern thunderstorm. Pilot said he suddenly could see nothing and knew back up was safe.

The other was another plane on our runway, just like mentioned up thread.

It is nice to know they have these contingencies planned.
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Old Aug 24, 11, 4:34 pm   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmb1985 View Post
I'm just wondering a) what's the likely explanation for that kind of aborted landing and b) how common is that kind of aborted landing? I fly a lot but have never known anything like it.
It's happened to me many times, and in most instances it was a runway incursion.
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Old Aug 24, 11, 9:23 pm   #11
 
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Originally Posted by InkUnderNails View Post
Pilot said he suddenly could see nothing and knew back up was safe.
Usually is; mountains don't point downwards.
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Old Aug 24, 11, 9:33 pm   #12
 
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Usually is; mountains don't point downwards.
And they say this isn't educational!
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Old Aug 24, 11, 9:50 pm   #13
 
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At the end of your flight the plane is at its lightest because of the fuel burn. If the plane has to go around then (take off), the take off/climb characteristics are to be different. It will climb better.

I agree it was probably another plane or vehicle that hadn't completely cleared the runway. Either the pilot or ATC can call it.
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Old Aug 26, 11, 12:29 pm   #14
 
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Pardon me, but I'll have to raise the BS flag here, and I'll explain why.

All airlines have what are called SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and FOMs (Flight Operations Manual). I've lived by quite a few, and helped write parts of a few more. What's in those books is the law, and being the disciplined folks that we are, airline pilots follow them as near to the letter as humanly possible.

When the manuals comes to the point of landing, specifically when and when not to abort one, there are a couple of very clear rules. One of them is that you never, ever, abort a landing AFTER speed brake deployment and / or selecting reverse thrust - unless the situation is such that you are certain to have an accident if you stay, but there's a chance you may not if you abort. Those situations are extremely rare, so rare in fact that I don't know of any airline that teaches aborted landings after spoilers/brakes/reversers.

Aborting a landing after speed brake deployment (which, if they have been armed, happens automatically when sensors register weight on wheels and thrust levers in idle) is akin to rejecting a take-off after V1 - you're in test pilot territory with a high probability of things going awfully wrong.

I'm not saying it didn't happen to the OP, but it is a one-in-a-million occurrence, and he's quite lucky to have walked away from it. The subsequent posters, however, who claim they've experienced the same, on several occasions even, well ... trust you understand why I'm taking that with a large dollop of salt. What might have happened is a very late go-around, which may result in the wheels briefly making contact with the runway before going back up, but that's as far as my imagination will stretch.
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Old Aug 26, 11, 12:34 pm   #15
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wally Bird View Post
Sounds like there was some caution warning during the rollout for which the procedure is to abort the landing.
I've been scratching my head, but I cannot think of a single caution or warning that calls for aborting a landing AFTER you've started braking. I'd be delighted if you could provide me with an example.
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