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I have been listening to class B go-around ATC recordings. After the initial climb of the go-around, the tower gives the flight a heading and altitude. Then, on some recordings I hear the tower say "contact departure" and a frequency. But on others I don't hear that.

I can't tell whether:

  1. It's optional for the tower to hand off the flight to departure in a go-around and the tower can keep control the whole time until they land, or

  2. The tower always switches the flight to departure, but sometimes that hand-off is left off of the recording.

Which is it?

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    $\begingroup$ They probably do because they have to push them out pretty far for sequencing. I don't think it's a requirement though, if the airport is quiet and they can just run the pattern I'm sure they can stay with tower. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Nov 9 '20 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ If they stay on the tower frequency, is approach involved at all (even though they don't talk to the aircraft)? Are they aware of the go-around? Are they in touch with the tower about it? $\endgroup$ – JoelFan Nov 9 '20 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ It the go-around pattern's airspace permanently reserved for go-arounds only? $\endgroup$ – JoelFan Nov 9 '20 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ There is no "go around pattern" or associated airspace. There is simply the pattern, a racetrack with one of the long legs being the runway. Tower is responsible for this, so if they can stay in the pattern, they don't need to switch to approach. If there are a bunch of tightly sequenced arrivals though, they may need to go out, maybe as much as 25 miles, then approach and/or departure need to be involved. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Nov 9 '20 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer is right. If it's a clear night & no inbound traffic, the aircraft can simply fly a visual pattern with the tower. If it's IMC & vectors to an instrument approach will be needed, and/or this aircraft will have to be sequenced in with other arrivals, then they'll send him back to Approach. Either way, the Tower controller will probably tell the Approach controller (on a landline) what's going on. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Nov 9 '20 at 18:05
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It depends. As a rule oh thumb, a missed approach will be handed over to approach (TRACON) to get a new approach clearance. Some places have local rules that allow approach to delegate this responsibility to the tower when it makes sense, which means the aircraft can then stay on the tower frequency for the new approach. This would normally require a few things, such as appropriate equipment being available in the tower (radar) and having a tower controller that is actually rated to be allowed to perform approach control.

In any case, when a go around is initiated, the tower will immediately call approach and coordinate what to do. One of the results of this coordination is the "heading and altitude" you have heard the tower give to some flights. Typically, approach will request to get the flight at a specific heading and altitude, and the tower will give those instructions before handing over the flight. Some airports will have very specific local regulations about which steps to follow, others allow the controllers to come up with a solution that fits the specific situation.

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  • $\begingroup$ What heading and altitude does a pilot use while waiting for instructions? Does he just join the pattern? $\endgroup$ – JoelFan Nov 9 '20 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ @JoelFan if they are on an IFR flight plan, the approach plate has missed approach instructions to use. If they are VFR, they'll be told what to do $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Nov 9 '20 at 22:51
  • $\begingroup$ One should distinguish between a “go around” (balked landing) and a “missed approach”. ATC’s response to each may differ. $\endgroup$ – StephenS Nov 10 '20 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer, I assume it's usually similar to a normal take-off in terms of heading and altitude? $\endgroup$ – JoelFan Nov 11 '20 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ @JoelFan not always. IFR missed approach procedures are pretty different from departure ones. VFR is the same until you turn crosswind to rejoin the pattern unless otherwise instructed. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Nov 11 '20 at 23:03

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