Please help interpret my go-around


#1

I was a passenger on 27Apr2014 on UAL#4101 KMEM-KIAH. Our pilots executed a go-around at under 100 ft altitude. The FlightAware tracklog is here:

flightaware.com/live/flight/UAL4 … H/tracklog

First, thank you FlightAware. What an amazing service I just discovered.

Second, could any FlightAware user help me interpret this track? What likely happened? Was the rapid drop in ground speed at 3:04pm on the first approach from 229 kts to 144 very unusual?

The pilots gave us no information during the go-around. Only after landing did they inform us that a windshear required a mandatory go-around. A fellow passenger and I noticed that there was no sound of the flaps being deployed in the first approach, whereas they were very audibly deployed in the second approach.

Is it possible to hypothesize from this tracklog what might have happened? Is it possible to distinguish a meteorological hazard from pilot error by looking at this or other sources?

Thank you.


#2

Why would you believe it was pilot error when they mentioned it was due to wind shear? Do you think he was lying?


#3

Jim,
Thank you for your question. I have no particular reason to believe there was a pilot error, and I should have rephrased my question. There are clearly numerous potential causes for a go-around. Perhaps windshear is among the most common, and the conditions do appear to have been right for it. Mechanical, ground control, pilot or ATC issues might also contribute to the decision.

It is true that I have wondered if the pilots provided us the full story in their brief communication. I wouldn’t consider it lying, but rather providing information on a need-to-know baisis. As such, I have become very curious as to whether passengers who are involved in incidents – even very minor ones – have any recourse to understand the situation better.

FlightAware is an amazing resource, and I thought some expert eyes might help me understand this tracklog better. Do you draw any hypotheses from the tracklog?

I also looked for the ATC audio file of our landing at liveatc.net. I do not know how to interpret the fact that I cannot find it. The audio file for the time of our landing is available. 27Apr2014, 1900z, KIAH Tower. However, the audio file is only 16 minutes long to cover this 30 minute time increment. I will try to better understand the reasons for this and see if I am searching incorrectly. Any guidance or comments on this would also be appreciated by anyone in the community who could help.

Thank you again.


#4

Sounds like it came up quick and they set up for a different, faster approach the second time around. Nothing more or less. I sense you’re looking for something that just isn’t there. As to the “need to know,” ask as you leave the plane if the pilot is present. They may or may not comment more. It’s their prerogative.


#5

Planes go around for all sorts of reasons every day. It happens.

Looking at the weather for IAH on the 27th, they had consistent winds from the south at 20 to 30 MPH

Weather history from Weather Underground

classic.wunderground.com/history … atename=NA

I found pilot reports for the last 36 hours for a wide area around KIAH, and found one report of low level wind shear near KHOU, but it is hard to associate with your aircraft. There were numerous reports of turbulence all across central Texas all during the day after the passage of the front that is still producing tornadoes across the south as I write this.

HOU UUA /OV KHOU/TM 0015/FL008/TP B737/RM LLWS ON FINAL TO 30L. 20KT TAIL WIND AT 800FT. AWC-WEB/SWA

Based on circumstantial evidence, I’d say the pilot told you the truth. I understand your curiosity, though.


#6

If you’re looking for it on liveatc, be aware that it wont’ be “United 4101” it will be “Acey 4101”


#7

Executing a go around at under 100 ft is not out of the ordinary if a low level wind sheer alert goes off in the cockpit. I’ve done it plenty of times when I was flying for a regional carrier. The pilots shouldn’t give you any information on the go-around as they are busy with a lot of different procedures that they have to accomplish (not to mention talking to air traffic controllers). After all of that is said and done, they may need to talk to the company as well. Do they need to divert? Do they try it again? A lot of things are going on in the flight deck that they need to concentrate on before an announcement can be made to passengers. As far as the flaps not getting extended the first time around, I’m sorry but I do not believe that. Jets do not fly very well at 144 knots without the usage of flaps.


#8

All of these replies have been very helpful. Thanks to all.

Captaink727- Your experience is reassuring and your interpretation of the available facts almost certainly correct. Thanks again.