How Do You Do a Go Around?
I've always thought that flight instruction divides itself into three broad camps: Soviet style, ad hoc and something in between. Soviet style implies rigid adherence to the syllabus and checklist and no improvisation. At its most radical, ad hoc instruction—or flying for that matter—devolves to reducing flying to the level of driving a car, which isn't all bad. I sometimes think we make it harder than it needs to be. Personally, I'm mostly in the middle camp; I take one from column A and one from column B as the situation warrants.
But I recently discovered I'm a Red Star-festooned Bolshevik when it comes to at least one topic: how to do a go around. This came to light when I was reviewing the July issue of Aviation Safety, one of our sister magazines. The discussion involved the best way to perform a go around—apply all the power available at once, set the pitch value and then retrim or apply some of the power to arrest the descent, retrim, clean up the airplane then add the rest of the power. The logic of the latter approach is that by doing things piecemeal, you avoid potential trim-induced high pitch-up forces that could lead to loss of control.
This is definitely not old school stuff, but is somewhat Cessna-centric in response to what's generally known as a trim-tab stall. This phenomenon seems most pronounced in 172s and 182s, but all of the Cessna highwings exhibit it to some degree. If the airplane is trimmed for a stable airspeed with full flaps, applying full power from the approach configuration will cause a strong pitch up that requires no small effort by the pilot to resist. So some time during the 1970s I'd guess, the idea of two-stage power application emerged as an alternate method of executing a go around. It's not that it's a bad idea when applied to Cessnas, but it crept into the training doctrine and found wider application, although I'm not sure how many instructors teach it that way. To me, it makes no sense.
Most of my instruction-given is instrument work in high-performance aircraft. This has caused me to follow ad hoc thinking with regard to setting up the approach configuration. Personally, in a single like a Mooney or a Bonanza, I prefer to fly an instrument approach relatively fast—about 110 knots—with no flaps. At glideslope intercept, I lower the gear and use the drag as a baseline for the descent. At the missed approach—planned or otherwise—the go around requires only application of full power, pitch up and retraction of the gear. There's no flap retraction and very little trim change.
I arrived at this method after watching so many students make a Keystone Cops skit out of the go around, sometimes retracting the gear first or applying half power, then going for the gear and flaps, then back to the power. An instrument instructor doesn't have to assume control of the airplane much, but I'd guess most of the times I had to related to airplanes wallowing around near the ground on a go around with too little power while the pilot fooled with the gear and flaps. Some pilots prefer lower speeds and partial flaps for instrument approaches and when I instructed such pilots, I counseled them to do whatever felt most comfortable. There's no always right or always wrong to this. Well, maybe with the exception of power application when the go around decision has been made.
If there's an argument for a Pavlovian response in anything related to flying, the go around might be it. Only one thing will make the airplane go up hill and that's power. I can't ever recall having too much of it, nor wanting to put less air more slowly between me and the ground. So for me, the go around starts with full power.
Visual go arounds aren't much different except that they are often done from much lower altitudes which would seem to make the need for maximum power application all the more urgent. Not many airplanes confront the pilot with unmanageable pitch force changes with power application. Cessnas may be the worst in this regard. But there's always some risk in thinking that a crutch method that works for one type should be applied to everything. That's not the case.
By the way, every month we review 100 to 200 accidents for our Used Aircraft Guides. I can't recall ever seeing any Cessna accidents that even remotely looked like they could have been trim-tab stalls. I do know directly of one that occurred in 1986, but overall, I think the risk resides largely in theory.