A dramatic aborted landing in St. Maarten yesterday, as an Air France 340 realised that it was going to land short of the runway and decided at the last second to go around.
It landed safely on the second pass, apparently.
UPDATE: A few readers have objected to the description “almost crashed” in the headline. Here’s why I’m sticking with it…
There is no room to be short here. At some airports, yes. At this one, no. Also, the lag-time between when the pilot revs the engines for the go-around and the time they fully kick in is several full seconds. Basically, the plane had no room for error. And if the pilot had made the decision only a split-second later, he would likely have hit short, and, possibly, belly-flopped (or worse).
Also, in that wind, at that angle of approach, it would have been remarkably easy for a wing to dip momentarily and catch the fence or the ground, which also could have a caused a crash.
So, I’m sticking with “almost crashed.”
UPDATE 2: OK, maybe if this landing is “almost crashed,” all landings at St. Maarten have to be described that way. Below is a video of a 747 making the same approach on a calmer day. It’s also plenty scary.
One key difference between the two, though (at least to my eye) is that the 747 effectively flies on to the runway. He comes in flatter, with a slower rate of descent. As a result, he’s at much less risk of hitting hard and short…
UPDATE 3: I concede! I’ve now heard from enough heavy jet pilots about this being a relatively normal go-around that I’ve changed the headline. Some good comments below. Thanks to all for the thoughtful response.
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