Dangerous Go Arounds Earn the AP the Cranky Jackass Award

You know that feeling when you see a news report from a reputable news source that is just so insanely wrong that it makes you question everything they do? 06_09_12 jackassWell, here’s a good one for you. This report is so absolutely ridiculous that it has earned the Associated Press a Cranky Jackass award.

This video has apparently been making the rounds of various news outlets lately, and it needs to be stopped. It must be a slow news week for this to get picked up. The premise? When an airplane aborts its landing and goes around, it’s a horribly unsafe move. The reality? It’s far safer than continuing to try a landing that shouldn’t happen. Take a look for yourself.

Where can I start with this steaming pile of crap? How about the opening line . . .

Last December, Howard Kronberg was a passenger on a flight about to touch down at the airport in Newark, New Jersey when he feared his life was over. “It’s a catastrophic accident waiting to happen.”

Oh good, so a passenger with no flying experience knows that it’s a horribly unsafe maneuver? Please. As tempting as it may be, I can’t say I fault this guy for thinking that. A go-around can be a scary thing if you don’t know what’s happening. So who can I fault? The AP for putting this garbage on the air.

Go-arounds are a normal part of flying. If there’s any question that landing on a runway would be unsafe, then the best possible move is to go around and try again. This can happen because another plane doesn’t clear the runway fast enough, the plane comes in too fast or too high, or maybe the weather is too bad at the moment. In these cases, it’s a safer move to go around than to try to get on the ground.

I find it incredible that the report states that some controllers say that going around makes a mid-air collision more likely, yet there’s no source on that at all. In fact, the only controller they interview says it’s “the safe route out.”

I’ve been through more than one go-around in my life, and I’ll admit that it can be a little tense since you don’t know why it’s happening. But just remember, pilots don’t want to go around either. The sooner they land, the sooner they can go home (or to the hotel). So if you’re going around, there’s a good reason for it, and your pilot is keeping you safe.

Pieces like these hold absolutely no value other than to scare people with something that isn’t unsafe. I wish there was some stronger oversight at the AP, because this report never should have seen the light of day.


38 Responses to Dangerous Go Arounds Earn the AP the Cranky Jackass Award

  1. Lucky says:

    Cranky, call me naive, but this has to be a joke. It absolutely must be. If they’re serious… well… wow.

  2. CF says:

    I thought it was at first as well, but then I saw it had been picked up by USA Today and a bunch of other places. Take a look at these Google results.

  3. Rob says:

    “News” in America is just sensationalist pap to keep the sheeple entertained, and ignorant of current events. Better get used to more and more of that.

  4. Xnuiem says:

    “Mr Kronberg, what you just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response, were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone on YouTube is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

  5. CF says:

    Xnuieum – Okay, a simple “wrong” would’ve done just fine.

    But honestly, I can’t really blame Kronberg that much. Think about it from an unknowing passenger’s point of view. You’re descending, everything’s fine, and then all of a sudden the gear comes up, the engines spool up and you start pulling back up into the air. The pilots don’t come on right away to explain things because they’re too busy executing the go-around, so you don’t know what’s happening. It can be a scary experience.

    Of course, the reporter putting this story together needs to have a far better grasp on what’s happening here. It is entirely his fault that he was willing to put this guy on TV despite the fact that Kronberg doesn’t know what’s happening at all. Absolutely horrendous reporting.

  6. Tracker says:

    Wow. Are they stupid or something? Would that obviously in-experienced non-flyer of a guy have preferred that his plane go ahead and land, in which case his “life would have been over.” What an idiot. Of course the bigger idiot is the AP for not doing their homework.

    Of course it’s no surprise to me. The last time I was on a plane, some moron sitting across from me as we were coming into land at DFW, saw a plane that passed us, probably more than a mile away and thousands of feet below us, and exclaimed “OMG! That was a near collision! This pilot doesn’t know what he’s doing, they’re not supposed to let a plane within a half mile of where we are!”

    *rolls eyes*

    Yeah. That’s the same type they interviewed. Know nothing Joes who have flown maybe twice in their life and think they’re super-frequent fliers.

  7. Xnuiem says:

    I live at DFW, and let me tell you….I am so sorry. The way they come in here on the parallel runways, and traffic for ADS, DAL, AFW, and all the other little ones, you are going to see a lot of airplanes in the skies here. And if the pilots have visual, they can get as close as they may (with a few provisions), it’s not a deal if they see each other.

    *sigh* But you are right, his alternative was to land, crash, and burn. Either that or “climb drastically”. And ya wonder why the flying wing Boeing design is getting flak for having forward facing windows. The average passenger doesn’t need to see where they are going, it will only cause problems.

  8. Roy says:

    OMG…I saw the report on NBC this morning and I was floored. NBC mentioned the airport was at fault…yeah more like the controller who could decide what he wanted to do with the Cayman Airlines aircraft.

    I second the cranky jackass!!!!

    – Roy

  9. Zach says:

    Here’s yet another gem from a media outlet that apparently can’t find a decent aviation expert to cite (re: the Obama “emergency” landing):

    “As the pilot struggled to re-gain control of the pitch of the plane – the angle of the nose of the plane – Obama was told that he and the other 44 passengers on board might have to assume the brace position upon landing, bending forward with their heads between their knees.”

    Is this a joke? To read this account (from somebody who was not on the aircraft), you would think that the plane and its occupants were spiraling toward their fiery doom, only to be spared by last-minute pilot heroics and divine intervention. Yesterday’s accounts from the press corps and the candidate himself, however, seemed to indicate that the landing was uneventful, and Obama’s staff briefing continued even as the event unfolded.

    What gives? It’s sensationalism, and it’s irresponsible journalism.

  10. Zach says:

    Oh, I failed to mention that the above is from no less than ABC News.

  11. Casey says:

    While although they did sensationalize a horribly insignificant statistic, the AP story did have legitimate basis … and it was worth reporting.

    The real news is that the FAA and airports have been proactively correcting any broken procedures that could make a go around unsafe under very specific conditions. IE: making procedures in place so a plane is not in the way right after an aborted take off. As airport schedules become more compressed, this type of thing can become a problem if not planned for properly.

    Preventing incursions on the ground and immediately after take off does have the potential of preventing one or maybe two accidents in the next 10-20 years. Its no different than the story about pumping empty fuel tanks with inert gas to prevent another TWA 800. The FAA must be getting bored with everything so safe these days. Not too many planes falling out of the sky anymore.

  12. CF says:

    Casey – If that was their attempt to report the underlying story, they did a terrible job. It was only mentioned once briefly, I believe. It’s always good for the FAA to review procedures and see if there’s a way to make them safer, but I would be surprised to find anyone who actually believes the current system to be inherently unsafe.

  13. Casey says:

    People are afraid of things that they cannot see or understand. Aircraft floating on an invisible swath of air, flown by methods not understood will always be a target.

    I am certain the AP (among other news outlets) will continue to produce stories to keep us in fear — because people like reading stories like this. What kind of headline would this be: “Floating 7 miles in the air at 600 miles per hour safer than brushing your teeth” compared to this number: “perfectionist pilots put your life in danger with go-arounds, seeking the ‘perfect landing’ to win employee contest for $25 starbucks gift card”

    It would be nice to have the luxury of air safety on other modes of transportation. While the FAA is worried about a couple hundred lives over the span of many years, that number of people parish on our highways each day. Of course, the AP does not cover such a thing.

  14. CF says:

    Casey – I agree completely. It’s all about what attracts eyeballs and sensationalist stories like this definitely grab more than their fair share. That’s why I like to put posts out like this to counteract the fear that this instills. Sadly, the AP reaches a lot more people than this blog or any of the other aviation sites that have dinged this story reach.

  15. The Traveling Optimist says:

    I love a good story….even one as off the mark as this. My first go around was at Santiago, Chile, of all places. We held on the ground for an hour in MIAMI hoping the expected morning fog would lift by the time we got down there. Nine hours later, we’re circling, cleared to land, gear down then BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR, engine roar, G-forces up, gear up and off we go…….to Mendoza, Argentina, our alternate! Why?

    The controller who cleared us was overridden by his supervisor because we were attempting to land below mins in fog conditions (pilots can be chatty if you act like or actually do know what they’re talking about).

    Big ol’ party at Mendoza, a one-horse town on the other side of the Andes while we all wait for fuel and clearance. Back over the Andes later that morning, our bright clear skies included a spectacular view of Aconcagua – tallest peak in the Americas – I would never have enjoyed otherwise.

    All this excitement at the END of a nine hour flight, heaven knows how many hours in to or even past the flight crew duty day and yet I was never safer on an airplane or in better care by professionals who knew what they were doing and cared very much about their profession and customers.

    This was United Airlines, an airline I’ve been harshly critical of lately but on that day they knew what they were doing and were glad of and proud to serve.

    Recall Cranky’s recent post about the new taxiways at LAX to avoid runway incursions to AVOID go-arounds and the crash-and-burns news sources seem to prefer to lead the evening news with. Go arounds are good things and, given the right circumstance, will at least provide good conversation at parties. You survived – cheers!

  16. The Traveling Optimist says:

    By “Big ol’ party” at Mendoza, I meant inbound flights from American, LanChile, Flying Tiger and Iberia and a couple of local names were all waiting for clearence back to Santiago. By no means did we break out the bubbly, despite Mendoza being in wine country. They wouldn’t let us off the plane!

  17. Wonko Beeblebrox says:

    I’ve only been in a go-around once. Back in May 2004, I was on a ~2 week old N919FJ as Mesa/AmericaWest and it did a touch-and-go in ELP because it (seemingly) came in too high and couldn’t find the runway. Just as the engines revved back up, the back wheels touched. We went around anyway and got a tour of the nearby oil refinery….

  18. David says:

    Had one go around in my life at LGA. We were coming in for landing on a CRJ and then the engines suddenly came back to life. I look off to the right side of the plane and see a 737 coming up underneath us. My heart could have done without that, but glad that the pilots and ATC did their job.

  19. Yo says:

    The media has always been pathetic about airlines. What do you expect? Barbie and Ken, no journalism, just sensationalism.

    I’m working on a blockbuster story. Did you know that a huge percentage of people who go to nursing homes DIE there? Its an outrage, we need an investigation!

  20. Yo says:

    I had a go around, on one of the first AWA 747 flights. Coming back to PHX, sitting upper deck.

    My seat was comfy, I didn’t care about the extra 10 minutes.

  21. CF says:

    Well since we’re talking about go-arounds, I’ll share the three I remember. I think I’ve probably been in more, but these are the ones that come to mind.

    1) Very bad summer thunderstorm coming into CLT on a US 767. We hit windshear on the first approach, gear up, throttles up, go around. Second approach we dropped and the pilot elected to try one more time before diverting. We made it on the last try, but man was I nervous on that one; not because we went around, obviously, but because the weather was so bad.

    2) Coming into LAS on a DL M90 one rainy evening, we were on our way down when the plane in front of us didn’t clear the runway fast enough. Up we went back into the clouds, circled around, and finally landed. No big deal at all.

    3) Flying into LAX on an MX 320 from SJD, it was raining hard and we were all annoyed because we had already been delayed for hours. We broke out of the clouds and looked ready to land when we powered up and went back into the turbulence. The captain never came on to explain what happened, and we landed and waited on a remote gate for about an hour without a peep from up front. That was extremely annoying.

  22. Rob says:

    I have a go-around story to beat ALL your go-around stories: landing at Reedley International Airport (population 50 or something like that) in my rented Cessna 172, at about ten feet above the runway I suddenly spotted a large dog capering around the runway ahead of me! With heroic lightning reflexes I zoomed back into the air and did a brave go-around. Probably saved at least two whole lives that day (mine and the dog’s). Why didn’t I think to alert the media???

  23. Zach says:

    I’ve had one that I can remember.

    Landing at JFK coming in from Copenhagen on a DL 767 about 10 years ago, we landed, rolled for about 3 seconds, and then powered up and took off for the go-’round. There was never any explanation, and once we landed the second time, the crew made the arrival announcements as if nothing had happened.

  24. Simon says:

    Can I just say in the four months I’ve been reading this blog, it’s been entertaining and informative in probably equal measure (just about how I like it), good work CF, keep it up.
    I’ve recently started commuting between London and Dublin, using BMI – pretty respectable airline, good points system, part of the star alliance, etc etc.
    But your point about flight crew communication with the SLFs (self-loading freight) in the back took me back to a flight last week – approaching London ready for the turnaround to get onto the landing approach, we went through an electrical storm, and suffered a mild lightning strike. Up to this point, we had a pretty boisterous cabin, a couple of school parties and so on, but when the cabin lit up and a muffled “crump” came from the outside of the plane, a deathly hush descended on the plane, pretty much from then on, until landing. Maybe the captain and first officer decided they didn’t really need to add anything…!

  25. Tracker says:

    Rob, that’s a great story. You should have called NBC, CNN, ABC and had them come out there and interview the dog. I bet that poor mutt recognized the benefit of go-arounds. And I think the dog would have had a heck of a lot more common sense than the guy they interviewed for this story!

    Simon, I tell you have only been afraid once on a flight, and that was landing at BWI on my way to England in a lightening storm. There was lightening all around the plane, and I nearly flipped out LOL. Of course, my mother-in-law said to watch the flight attendants. If they look scared, then you can panic. She said the only time she’s ever been scared was once, there was some terrible turbulence, the worst she’d ever experienced, all the flight attendants had been ordered to their seats it was so bad. She looked up to see the flight attendant crossing herself and praying. I think that’s a good time to panic, right there, yes.

  26. Doug says:

    Are go-arounds really that uncommon? I know I’ve been through at least 5 of them. Usually the pilot comes on in a bit to explain that “there was another aircraft on our runway” or somesuch.

    The AP reporting here is atrocious, no two ways about it.

  27. pbz says:

    CF you are 100% right with the exception of your last comment. Oversight of the AP (i.e. infringing on freedom of the press) is not the answer to this! The answer is better schooling and MORE freedom of the press, i.e. blogs such as yourself to expose inaccuracies and MORE newsfeeds with higher quality news that can cause AP to go out of business if they keep this up over the long run. Sorry to get political but keep your hands off AP’s typewriter, let them put themselves out of business if they keep it up, but it’s not the government’s job to decide what is poor reporting.

  28. CF says:

    pbz – We’re on the same page here. I said there should be “stronger oversight at the AP.” There most certainly should not be oversight OF the AP. I was talking about oversight by the AP of the articles that they approve to see the light of day. More freedom of the press is absolutely the write answer, but I wish the established media organizations would be more responsible on their own.

  29. TR says:

    I flew TWA to Milan from NYC in 1988 or so. The plane was a 747-200 and I was sitting in a window seat towards the back. Upon arrival at Milan, we had to circle the airport for 1-2 hours due to heavy fog (prior to instrument landing?) or else relocate for another airport according to the pilot. After quite a long time, the pilot announced that he was going to try to land. We descended in no-visibility clouds, FA’s were told to strap in, one of them crossed herself a couple of times which made the people in my section a little nervous. Suddenly we broke out of the clouds and we were right over the runway, but coming down really fast. It looked like a few hundred feet and you could tell that the plane was coming down too teep and fast. There was kind of a muffled cry, mumbling from people in the back, and in a few seconds all four engines went to full throttle, you could hear them screaming and we were pressed way back into our seats as the pilot went for the go-round. You could not lean forward as it accelerated up, and we shot right out of the clouds. People were nervous now. The pilot said he was going to try again, and he landed it the second time. Have to admit I was scared when I saw the ground on the first approach.

  30. They do deserve the jackass award.

    When I was a student pilot at LGB (Long Beach), I was ordered on a go-around but I was doing it without the controller having to say so. LGB is laid out like a tic-tac-toe board with a 10,000′ runway bisecting it diagonally. I was (cleared by ATC and) landing on the usual 25L and looked to my left at the head of the long intersecting runway to see a corporate jet landing at the same time. We would have been at the intersection at the same time. I opted to do a go around on my own. As I was over the other plane, ATC feverishly called me up ordering me to go around and not bother responding.

    Now, LGB is (or was) a training airport for ATC and I had good relationships with the controllers on conversations in the pattern doing touch and go’s each week. But as my ground instructor said, it’s high time we stop calling them controllers. They control practically nothing. They are air traffic coordinators.

    I guess AP thought I should just blindly follow ATC into the other plane to my death??

  31. pbz says:

    CF you are right. Better oversight AT the AP, not better oversight *OF* the AP. My misreading I’m sure. Thanks & keep up the good work,
    /pbz

  32. David SF east bay says:

    The Associated Press and any station that runs this video should be ashamed of themselves. Aren’t most go arounds due to bad weather? They act like a go around is something new. Guess these idiots aren’t smart enough to know go arounds have been happening since the beginning of flight when a pilot didn’t think they could land the first time they tried.

  33. j says:

    That’s right, “Yo,” the media should never investigate anything. We should just always trust government officials and big companies who employ us and sell us stuff. They know best, right? right!? Rip the AP for blowing this issue out of proportion, but let’s cool it with all the sanctimonious pot shots on how superficial and dumb the media is.

  34. Tracker says:

    j, perhaps you haven’t watched most of the news networks in the US lately. Their top story is like “Brittney Spears in Rehab again”. So come off it.

    Most of them are too scared (that they’ll lose their jobs) to mention any REAL issues (because the giant media corporations that own them don’t like them to point out anything that might muck up the status quo), and so they have to divert to scare tactics about things that aren’t true, or don’t really matter, to keep their audience attentive. When it’s not scare tactics, it’s cheap paparazzi crap about what or who so-and-so in Hollywood is doing. It seems to be one or the other.

    BTW, we’re ripping the AP for not INVESTIGATING the story to find the TRUTH of the matter. They didn’t bother to do their homework. And your average joe-schmoe-know-nothing citizen will believe everything they see on TV, because it must be true. For a lie to become “truth”, all one must do is keep repeating it.

  35. Yo says:

    Oh “J” you are being hyperbolic.

    Whenever there is a crash, the networks fill time with endless uninformed speculation, graphics of planes that are usually very wrong, and then they call in Mary Schiavo to spread even more bilge.

    You sound like a borderline conspiracy theorist.

  36. Tracker says:

    Yo wrote: “…then they call in Mary Schiavo to spread even more bilge.”

    OMG, I was drinking a soda right when I read that and almost choked! You are so right. They go on and on and on about a single plane crash, and yet WAY more people are killed on our nations highways every year and that’s not news, unless it involves some cute blonde girl, then it gets 24-7 coverage until something else happens (i.e. Britney in rehab again).

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