Hi I was checking flights at Heathrow on flightradar24.com the other day and found this plane a bit strange. It looked like the first landing wasn't successful. The plane may have touched down but pulled up again, and then came back for a 2nd landing. Does anybody have any factual information on what happened? Thanks.
There are many, many reasons why a pilot might go around.
- The approach wasn't stable.
- The last plane that landed was slow to get off the runway, and the pilot or ATC decided that landing would create a risk of collision.
- There was a plane or other vehicle on the runway that wasn't supposed to be there.
- They encountered low-level wind shear.
- The weather was bad, and they didn't have the runway in sight by the time they reached their minimums.
- A passenger suddenly got airsick and had to get out of their seat to run to the restroom.
- There are probably more that I can't think of right now.
Unfortunately, listening in to ATC broadcasts is illegal in England, so even if the tower did ask the reason for the go-around, it doesn't help us. There's also probably no publicly available record of the reason, so guessing is about the best we can do.
It is not at all unusual for commercial planes to do a "go-around" if the landing picture is not to professional standards.
Remember that a commercial plane frequently has between 100 and 250 lives on board. There is simply no good reason to risk all those lives on a landing that is even a little bit out of "standard". A go around costs a bit in terms of fuel, and maybe 20 extra minutes of time. But compared to the safety of the passengers, it is not a concern.
- There are plenty of YouTube videos of planes going around during gusty and windy conditions.
- Sometimes birds or wildlife spotted in the area of the runway can be cause for a go-around, because hitting an animal during landing can be a serious problem.
- Sometimes timing on the ground is an issue: if the prior aircraft doesn't quite clear the runway fast enough, or a ground vehicle is crossing the runway too slowly, its better to go around than to have a close call.
- Sometimes the pilots' just have not established a well stabilized approach, due to workload, miscommunication, or difficult conditions.
It is much more rare (but not unheard of) for there to be a runway incursion, such as a vehicle (airplane or GSE) crossing the runway without permission or the pilots lining up for the incorrect runway.
I've spent a lot of time near the departure end of SeaTac airport, and can always hear when a plane suddenly spins up their engines for a go-around. It probably happens to at least one flight every couple hours. A single go-around is not a safety problem. (If a pilot has a bunch of repeated, unjustified go-arounds, they'll likely be sent for more training). A go-around is far more preferable than the possible alternate outcome.