A Personal Flying First — a Missed Approach Last Night

Surprising that it took this long, but as I tweeted last night I had my first-ever missed approach on arrival at Washington National airport, flying American AA1136 in from Miami the pilot pulled up just before landing.

Then he came on the PA and announced that air traffic control had cleared a takeoff too close to our arrival, that it hadn’t yet cleared the runway, so we’d have to go around.

Without access to air traffic control information myself I don’t know more details than that, it’s one of those times that I especially miss United’s “Channel 9” audio which allows you to listen to air traffic conversations (when the pilot is willing to turn it on).

But interesting that it happened at National, less than a couple of weeks after July 31’s near-miss of US Airways flights there and an air traffic controller falling asleep on the late night shift there last year.

We were coming in rather high anyway, it never seemed like there was any danger or that it was a close call, and looking around the cabin it didn’t appear that people were generally nervous when we pulled up. So pretty much a non-event. Except that for me it was a flying first

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I had this happen at National. Scarry! I was sitting next to former pilots and they were shaken. Good everything was ok.

  2. Why is it interesting that it happened at National? They happen everywhere. I had three in one year. Not a big deal.

  3. When flying into airports such as DCA, the timing between arrivals and departures on the same runway is critical. An aircraft cleared to take off that delays for even 5 seconds can cause a go-around for an arrival. It happens frequently and really is no big deal. For the sake of accuracy, you had a go around, not a missed approach. A missed approach occurs while conducting an instrument approach procedure and not getting the runway in sight, or not being in a position to land safely, at the minimum altitude for the procedure.

  4. Have never had one in 20+ years of flying. They just go full-power, and pull-up and bank?

  5. Last winter I had a missed approached at LHR. We even had the back wheels touch before the pilot took off. With the gusty winds that day, it was kinda scary.

  6. I had the same coming in from SFO to BOS on Friday. Heavy weather made the approach rough and then on final approach, full power and a steep climb. Visibility was hampered by a very low cloud base, but we when I looked out we were about 150ft up over taxiing aircraft. First time I’ve experienced it as a frequent traveler. Happy not to go through it again.

  7. Several years ago, had this happen 3 times on one flight coming into DEN on a UA 757. First 2 misses were wind shear. 3rd was because ATC cleared a takeoff on the same runway we were already cleared to land on.

  8. I usually travel just once a year (at most two), but in the last three years I’ve been on aborted landings twice.
    First time on United 777 landing in IAD during a stormy weather. The pilot later said that the wind pushed a baggage card on the runway right in front of the plane.
    Second time was on a Lufthansa 737 in FRA due to other aircraft not clearing runway in time. The weather was good and we had a great view of the airport right from above.

  9. Still find it amazing that they refer to these incidents as “near miss”. A crash is a near miss…these are “near hits”! 🙂

  10. Not to be pedantic, but a missed approach and a go-around are two different things. A missed approach is when the instrument approach is broken off either because of traffic spacing, visibility (clouds or fog at minimum decent altitude), or a variety of other issues. Although a missed approach could occur at 200 ft AGL when the weather is very foggy, chances are higher that it would happen 2-5 minutes or more before the anticipated touchdown. In a go-around, the plane aborts landing at any point up to touchdown (or even afterward, if for example they see another plane on the runway or a hard bounce) and circle around to land again. You experienced a go-around, not a missed approach.

  11. I’ve had two in my life. Once on a small 40 person jet a few year back. The more recent one was in May on a BA 777 at Logan. Interesting experience to say the least.

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