The past few months, the old Piper Warrior has been down for maintenance, however, after a long wait and a lot of necessary replacement parts, the old bird is up and running. As you could have expected, I was more the eager to jump in and take a spin.
After a good pre-flight and wipe down, I taxied and took off. It was an amazing flight and a beautiful day. I flew close to the airport in the “practice area” as I wanted to make sure I was close enough so that if anything went wrong I would be able to pull right back in and land safely. Once I was done performing numerous circles and checking everything out, I decided to take it easy and bring her back in.
Everything was textbook and I was set for a great final. I felt, however, that something was just not right. It was as if I was a little too high.
Trying to force the plane down would not have been the right thing to do, but I might have been fine. The little voice in the back of my head was trying to give me a warning.
I had heard that warning before and ignored it once because I was in an unfamiliar controlled airport and there was a line of other aircraft wanting to land behind me. I was intimidated with the thought of telling the controller that I needed to go-around and didn’t want to look like an amateur to the other pilots. I ended up attempting to land the plane which resulted in violently porpoising the plane. To those who are unfamiliar, a "porpoise" usually occurs when the airplane hits nose gear first, the nose rebounds, and the mains then come down abruptly. They then rebound, and the cycle repeats itself.
Needless to say, I remembered that prior incident and I listened to that little voice. I simply radioed my intention to perform a go-around and executed. The little voice – it’s important and there for a reason.
Go-arounds can happen at any time for any reason and I think more pilots need to be aware that performing a go-around in most cases is a smart call which actually shows good judgment and a high degree of pilot maturity. If you don’t feel like you are set up correctly to land the plane, that subtitle doubt is all can take to botch your landing.
As I continue to mature as a pilot, I have become more humble. I tell all of my passengers that I am a humble pilot that values their input and if they see something that worries them, to let me know. I will always either explain or correct.
As a pilot, you must have this mentality, as we are always learning. My last instructor gave me the guidance that when you stop learning, you should stop flying. I feel that this is a very accurate statement.
Remember that your plane relies on you as a pilot to tell it what to do and where to go. It doesn’t care where it is, how many people are behind you or if you feel embarrassed. Your passengers and crew rely on you to make the best decisions possible and taking control of your situation is paramount to their safety and yours.
Understand that you are most likely never going to be the best pilot ever. Sorry, that honor most likely goes to a WWI pilot that kept his plane together with extra shoelaces while attempting to dead reckon their way through limited visibility while being shot at. Rather, you need to be the best pilot you can be for yourself and your passengers.
Do the right thing, be humble and if you do not feel right about something - do what you need to do to make it right. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. I once heard that the best way to save money in aviation is not to crash. By taking a simple step like deciding to go around might save you not only money but it might end up saving lives. Stay safe out there.