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Touch and Go

With NTSB statements coming in stating that the pilots aboard ill fated Asiana Airlines Flight 214 which crashed in San Francisco were attempting to abort the landing, some news reports were stating that such an occurrence - pilots changing their mind at the last second before landing - while something they train for, and is well within the aircraft’s ability, it is none the less extremely rare. As a matter of fact, in over 40 years of flying on airplanes all over the planet and racking up I don’t know how many thousands of miles, I’d never experienced such an event… Until just before the accident at SFO. 

 

Flying in to PDX airport in Portland, Oregon last June, I was aboard a rather uneventful flight on Southwest Airlines from Chicago. We glided our way down from the east, and having landed here more times than I can remember, I watched the landmarks below as we descended. Government Island, the Glenn Jackson Bridge, Marine Drive, then the end of the runway. All normal, until somewhere around 100 feet from touchdown the pilots put their foot on the proverbial gas and we slowly started climbing again. A few in the cabin let out a little gasp, and the rest of us quizzically looked over at each other. The plane slowly climbed back up and during the loop back around the captain came on saying another jet was taking it’s sweet time getting off the runway, so the tower sent us around again. On the second attempt we landed perfectly.

 

Upon exiting the cabin I was able to speak to the first officer and mentioned to him that I had flown a few thousand times probably and never experienced this before. “It’s actually extremely rare” he casually responded. 

 

Rare enough to happen twice on domestic commercial flights within a month? 

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