A few days ago, flight AB 7001 (Air Berlin, New York - Düsseldorf) went for a "lap of honor" around the airport.
One video can be found here.
No emergency or technical issue, it just was that airlines last ever flight on that route (they're bankrupt), and the pilot wanted to give a nice gooodbye.

Now, of course comment-sections on news regarding this are full of "experts" saying if it was ok or not. Here the question for the ACTUAL experts I can reach:
Did the pilot do anything "bad" or even dangerous, or should a quick circling of the airport be just fine as long as the pilot can actually, well, fly his airplane properly?

UPDATE: The Bundesaufsichtsamt für Flugsicherung (BAF) (German bureau for flight-safety) agrees with this page, the manoeuvre was ruled to have been legal and safe.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ As far as I know airplanes are not allowed to just fly randomly, especially over an airport: position, direction, speed, altitude, they are mostly dictated by the tower. The only safe way to say if it was dangerous or not is to know if it was agreed or not with traffic control; the currently accepted answer is not an answer at all (just an uninformed opinion) and anyway you are supposed to wait a bit before accepting an answer, to give other people time and interest to reply. $\endgroup$
    – motoDrizzt
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ Wich proves I am clueless about flight-rules... Airplanes fly, towers mostly tell them where to. Thanks for the heads-up about this being no "flight-control-legal" (???) answer. I need some terminology for aviation-discussions, really , I feel like randomly stumbling through a dictionary here! $\endgroup$
    – Layna
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ @motoDrizzt your comment confused me when I read "the currently accepted answer" because I don't see any accept mark unless it's the most upvoted answer (or the only answer) at the time you wrote that comment $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 4:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Andrew T.: An OP can retract an accept mark. I assume that’s what happened here. $\endgroup$
    – chirlu
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ The tower was upset because he spilled his coffee. $\endgroup$
    – kevin
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 13:00

3 Answers 3


The maneuver was safe.

A spokesperson of the DFS (German Air Traffic Control) told the Berliner Morgenpost that the pilot requested and was given clearance to fly a left curve in case of a go-around. The necessary distance to other aircraft was ensured and a specific height for the maneuver was not determined.

The spokesperson also said that the DFS believes that this maneuver was safe.

However the LBA (Federal Aviation Office) started examining the case and requested Air Berlin to submit a statement which provides a reason for the go-around. The editorial staff of that newspaper believes this to be a routine procedure.

source (in German)

A rough translation of the relevant part in english:

Christian Hoppe, spokesperson of the German Air Traffic Control confirmed that: "The pilot previously requested if he is allowed to fly a left-curve in case of a go-around and was given clearance." The necessary distance to other aircraft was ensured, the specific height of the maneuver was not determined. "From the DSF's point of view the maneuver was safe." The Federal Office for Air Navigation corrected earlier information, which claimed that the pilot had reported problems with the landing-gear. "That was our assumption."

The Federal Aviation Office will nonetheless examine the case, Air Berlin should submit a statement on the reason of the go-around. Our editorial staff believes, after multiple requests, that this is most likely routine operation.

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    $\begingroup$ another source to add; it appears the pilot is now suspended by the airline. $\endgroup$
    – Bageletas
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 2:57
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks! Between the "real" reports, those trying to be sensational and those just badly researched and/or speculative, it's hard to filter out the useful one! But this one DOES look good and sensible :). $\endgroup$
    – Layna
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 5:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Bageletas Since it was already the last flight ever of that airline, I wonder what they try to accomplish with that. $\endgroup$
    – Mast
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Bageletas: Presumably the pilot could be suspended for many reasons short of an actual safety breach. On the one hand, unnecessary use of fuel and time (both expensive resources). On the other, even if completely safe, the maneuver was certainly perceived as unsafe by some observers (and perhaps passengers), which naturally the airline doesn’t want. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 12:28
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    $\begingroup$ Apparently (according to news media) the crew announced to passengers beforehand that they were going to perform a low approach, fly along the runway at 200ft and then continue into the left turn. This proves that not only a go-around with the left turn was agreed beforehand, but the low approach manoeuvre (flying level along the runway which is non-standard and quite different from a go-around), too. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 15:55

It looks to me to be a simple "go-around" - a maneuver the pilots would be expected to execute if the runway were to become unavailable shortly before landing.

This can happen if the previous jet to land failed to exit the runway in time.

Some might call this bad because it delays the landing, it burns extra fuel, and it might conceivably interrupt traffic flow (are there other aircraft behind this one waiting to land?)

I choose to believe that the pilot was well aware of traffic, fuel requirements, etc. and did a good job in a safe manner.

Another thing to consider - even if the airline isn't flying any more, it's very likely that the pilots will. Doing something dramatic and unsafe makes it very difficult to continue in their career.

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    $\begingroup$ It wasn't just the go-around that made this incident notable. It was the sudden left turn and flying over the terminal itself. Definitely not the published missed approach procedure! $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 16:59
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    $\begingroup$ DV and I don't get the 10 upvotes: "I choose to believe" is not an answer, just personal (uninformed) speculation. $\endgroup$
    – motoDrizzt
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ @reirab - Agreed. I assume the pilot cancelled IFR then called a go-around when on short final. At that point, it's just a left turn back to downwind just as if it were a Cessna. It's too bad we don't have the radio calls to confirm. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ It wasn’t a normal go-around. It was a prolonged level flight with gear down, followed by a shallow left turn with only marginal climbing. Gear was left down very long, too. As such, it was much closer to what’s dubbed a „low approach“ than a standard go-around. This probably still was a manoeuvre pre-agreed with air traffic control, pre-briefed and, as such, most probably safe, but it was definitely not something routinely observed in normal operation. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 19:04

Since the Air Berlin flight got clearance from controllers before performing this maneuver, it should be legal. The only legality is whether the flight declared a missed approach only to justify the pass. If so, the now defunct airline and it's now unemployed pilot might have some questions to answer.

There is a sad story about the last Pan Am flight. Upon arriving at Miami, being the last Pan Am aircraft still flying, the controllers actually requested that the plane make a slow pass over the field before landing, to honor the passing of a landmark airline.

  • $\begingroup$ FWIW, some professional pilots look askance at this particular event due to there being passengers on board ... and others see nothing wrong with it. I've been tracking the commentary on Air Berlin's demise, to include this event at PPRuNe and see that opinion is divided. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 21:20

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