What is the difference between a go-around and a missed approach? What are the steps involved in each of the procedures?
Approach, missed approach, departure & holding
Approach, missed approach, departure and holding are published instrument procedures. They are characterised by waypoints, alitudes, headings, climb-, and descend profiles.
An approach procedure tells you how to get from cruise to short final, from a holding to short final, or from cruise into a holding.
A missed approach procedure tells you how to get from climb out into a holding or to another point from where you can commence a new approach.
A departure procedure tells you how to get from climb out to cruise flight.
Takeoff, landing, go around & touch and go
Landing is the process of getting an aircraft from short final to a full stop on the runway.
Takeoff is the process of getting an aircraft from a full stop to climb out.
A go around takes an aircraft from short final to climb out directly, not touching the runway.
A touch and go takes the aircraft from short final to climb out, touching the runway in the process.
The procedures listed above can be combined arbitrarily. Even though a missed approach is often flown after a go around, they are not synonymous. Missed approaches can also be (and are) flown after a touch and go, or, for training purposes, after a takeoff. Also, a missed approach is not the only thing you can follow after a go around: Sometimes, you want to perform a departure and continue toward your alternate destination.
A go around is terminology generally used during VFR flight. If a pilot is approaching the runway to land and decides that conditions are not conducive to a safe landing, he can opt to “go around”. This can be for a wide variety of reasons including the pilot or aircraft being unprepared for the landing, the descent to landing being performed poorly, or even animals/FOD on the runway.
In a go around, the pilot will first apply power, then “clean up” by retracting flaps/gear as necessary to reduce drag (down to 20 degrees in a C172). Once a positive rate of climb has been established, the pilot will remove the remaining flaps and radio that he is going around. Generally the pilot will re-enter the traffic pattern and attempt to land again.
A missed approach is terminology used exclusively with instrument approaches. Instrument approaches always have a missed approach procedure in case the pilot is unable to complete the approach. This most often happens when cloud cover and visibility are poorer than allowed by the approach. If a pilot descends to a certain altitude and is unable to see the landing environment or at least the airport lights, he will “clean up” similarly to the go around procedure discussed above, tell ATC that they have “gone missed” and then follow the steps outlined on the instrument approach plate. These steps generally involve the aircraft climbing to a safe altitude and entering a hold. At this point the pilot can choose what their next course of action is.
Missed approaches can also be used if the pilot decides that he isn’t well prepared for the approach, and the missed approach procedure must be initiated if the pilot doesn’t stick to the approach closely enough.
"Go Around" is the ATC instruction used in any circumstances, IFR or VFR, where it is necessary to execute a Missed Approach. There is no instruction such as "make Missed Approach", the instruction is "Go Around".