Well, it finally happened. After over 1.5 million “butt in seat” miles in my life, I finally had my first go around just a couple of nights ago. For those of you that don’t know what a go around is, it’s an aborted landing shortly before touchdown. This can be due to any of a number of factors, including an airplane on the runway, approaching too fast, missing the runway due to limited visibility, etc.
And odd as it might be, I was quite looking forward to the day I’d finally have a go around. I was hoping it would be on a 747 or 777, where it would be pretty exciting given how powerful the planes are.
It was exciting, though unfortunately in a different way — I was at least a little bit scared!
I’m used to flying airlines with very high safety standards, though we were flying Sri Lankan Airlines from Mumbai to Colombo to Male since there aren’t that many options from India to the Maldives. The flight from Mumbai to Colombo left at 3AM and we were in business class, which only had one other passenger in it.
I was surprised by how modern the cabin was, with really comfortable seats and personal televisions.
At the same time I’m not all that familiar with Sri Lankan’s safety standards, which puts me a bit on edge when things go wrong. My friend had a Coke as a pre-departure beverage, which was served in a glass. Cool! Unfortunately the flight attendants never actually collected the glass before takeoff.
Anyway, all was normal until we were on final approach. This is a two-hour flight that leaves at around 3AM and lands at around 5AM in Sri Lanka, so I assume the pilots are pretty tired at this point in the day. I could even see the purser in the jumpseat with his eyes closed for at least a few minutes.
It was a bumpy approach and there was virtually zero visibility, so the first indication I had of our go around was when the engines started spooling up. At first I thought the pilots were just applying a bit of extra power, though when the engines stayed really loud for about 30 seconds and the gear was brought back up, it was clear it was a go around. That woke the purser up!
I was seated in the aisle seat so didn’t have a view out of the window, though asked my friend seated next to me how high he thought we were. He said “maybe 20 or 30 feet,” which freaked me the hell out of course, since that’s pretty low for a go around due to limited visibility. I suspect he may have been a bit off, but still.
Anyway, we made it the second time around without issue. Ultimately we were probably safe the entire time, though that didn’t stop me from sweating a bit (and for what it’s worth I’m a private pilot, so I really shouldn’t be easily scared).
Had it been the same situation on most other airlines I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but the combination of flying Sri Lankan Airlines which isn’t renowned for their safety standards, along with it being 5AM meaning the pilots were probably very tired, along with the limited visibility and jungles we were flying over, certainly made me sweat for just a moment.
All that was quickly forgotten when we approached the Maldives and had this view.