When a plane is set to land, one hopes that things will go according to plan, that the plane will hit the tarmac and coast to taxiing speed before depositing passengers at the gate. Sometimes, though, circumstances are such that a pilot has to pull out of the landing and try again, circling back in a situation known as a “go-around.”
Unfortunately, a series of recent near misses has called into question the safety of these types of procedures. Throughout 2012, four near misses took place during such a go-around, two of them at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. Prior to that, you have to go back to 2006 for a similarly dangerous incident (also in Vegas). The administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration explained that a crash would have occurred in these situations should the pilots of the planes that nearly collided not have taken measures to avoid a collision.
Because of this, the National Transportation Safety Board is calling upon the FAA to adjust its rules to reflect the danger. When planes are lined up to land, regulations ensure that there is an adequate amount of space between planes, whether they’re landing or taking off. The paths never converge. However, during a go-around, that careful planning is veritably thrown out the window. The FAA has said it will look into closing this loophole and come to a decision in the next three months.