Safety investigators are warning that failing to comply with go-around policies is ingrained as an accepted norm by the airline industry, and that a broad cultural shift is necessary to reduce the threat it presents.

Only 3% of unstable approaches result in a go-around, states the US-based Flight Safety Foundation, which has conducted an in-depth analysis of the non-compliance problem.

Despite data indicating that failure to execute a go-around is a substantial contributor to approach and landing accidents, the analysis says there is a “collective industry norm” to accept non-compliance with go-around policies.

“It is evident that the state of non-compliance has been steady for many years and will remain steady unless changes are made,” it adds.

Pilots’ overall awareness of approach and landing risks is low, the analysis says, and the industry has concentrated on reducing unstable approaches as the “sole means” to reduce accident rates.

The situation is exacerbated by management’s being “generally disengaged” from go-around non-compliance, and a perception that the associated risk is low.

Although several companies are individually addressing the problem, it says, the required “shift in focus and cultural norms” will be “easier” if the industry acts collectively.

Investigation of approach and landing accidents has provided sufficient insight into the basic contributing elements.

“What is lacking, however, is an understanding of the psychology of non-compliance,” says the Flight Safety Foundation analysis.

Its research examined not just the psychological perspective but also the execution of go-arounds. The execution analysis examined 64 go-around events involving transport aircraft – mainly single-aisle jets – over the course of 2000 to 2012.

Although seen as a normal part of flight operations, go-arounds are individually rare, the analysis states, and one in 10 has a “potentially hazardous outcome” such as exceedance of aircraft performance.

It says an effective go-around policy has three main attributes: it is well thought-out and balances the needs for safety and mission accomplishment, is consistently managed, and front-line employee awareness is such that it is reliably carried out.

“Research revealed weaknesses in all three attributes at the industry, operator and employee levels,” it states.

Achieving an effective policy from a psychological perspective means ensuring it “makes sense” operationally for both crews and management personnel, and that crews are able to see and understand clearly that the policy is being overseen and managed.

Extensive strategic recommendations in the analysis include separating the stable approach criteria from the decision-making points to increase awareness that these are two distinct aspects of go-around policy. Operators should also look at setting compliance targets and establish initiatives to achieve them.

Automated stable approach and landing alert systems address many of the psychological issues linked to non-compliance, says the analysis. Installation of such equipment could be the “single most effective way” to improve go-around decisions and “should be a priority”.

The analysis also makes several detailed recommendations on go-around execution.

Operators should ensure that go-around training and awareness “appropriately reflect” different execution risk scenarios, while their go-around policies should be reviewed to maximise clarity and effectiveness.

Carriers must also make sure that any crew member’s low relevant experience “does not prejudice” the effectiveness of monitoring during approach, landing and go-around.

Source: Cirium Dashboard