Monitored approaches

Principles underpinning these procedures can be successfully applied throughout all flight phases in new ways which lead to safer, more efficient and less costly operations.

Taking the airport environment and approach criteria into account, the PM will base the go-around decision on whether or not the aircraft is configured, stabilized and positioned for the landing. Unless all criteria is met, the decision will be to execute the missed approach procedure.

6. Manage the workload:
• When the workload gets too high, prioritize which parameters to monitor. Don't multi-task for too long.
• When dealing with emergencies, ensure adequate time and space to enable continuation of monitoring tasks.
• Avoid FMS programming at critical phases of flight.
• During periods of low workload, rehearse monitoring tasks for the next flight phase.
• Make cross-checking achievement of autopilot targets a habit.
• Verbalize observations or checklists.
• At the end of the flight, discuss how well monitoring was performed and whether or not the pilots shared a common plan.

Go-around decision-making

The last point to consider is decision-making in perhaps the most challenging of all flight phases: Final approach and go-around/landing.
The illustration above depicts what are commonly referred to as stabilized approach gates (SAGs) where specific operating criteria must be met prior to proceeding with the remainder of the approach.

Although the concept is appealing, SAGs are set by the operator and may vary in number, rigidity, and height above touchdown (HAT) between several different operators. SAGs may also differ for other visibility conditions or types of approach.

Discussion of go-arounds often stirs controversy since the maneuver places many pilots and aircraft in situations which may be rarely practiced and accompanied by its own threats. According to the FSF European Advisory Committee, more than 60% of go-arounds introduce greater risk, increasing to over 70% in cases where the pilots experienced a problem during approach. Moreover, 2 cognitive biases may work against decisions to go-around: continuation bias and recency bias.

Continuation bias is an unconscious cognitive bias that leads a pilot to continue with the original plan in spite of changing conditions. This bias appears to be stronger as task completion nears, for example while established on approach to land. Recency bias is the tendency to weigh recent events more heavily than earlier events.

It is closely related to the human tendency towards cognitive ease, like the preference for readily accessible cognitive information (memory, pattern-matching, explanation, interpretation etc) over less accessible cognitions only available through the hard work of thinking, analyzing and deciding. In short, if recent experience involves successful landings following decisions not to go-around, then this bias may become well-entrenched.

Rhetoric aside, late configuration changes and unstable approaches have historically led to a large portion of approach and landing accidents. We should never disregard established SAGs in favor of seat-of-the-pants flying. We should encourage greater research and greater uniformity among operators of similar aircraft.


Effective flight path monitoring and cross-checking identifies issues before they lead to flight path deviations. When pilots recognize that poor monitoring puts flight safety at risk, education can breach any resistance to their becoming consistently effective monitors.
Effective monitoring and cross- checking can detect and correct an error or interrupt an unsafe situation which may break the chain of events leading to an accident. Conversely, when this layer of defense is absent, errors and unsafe situations may go undetected, possibly leading to adverse safety consequences.

Flightcrew must use monitoring to help them identify, prevent, and mitigate events that may adversely impact safety margins. Therefore, operators must establish policy and procedures on PM duties and provide effective training for flightcrew and instructors on monitoring tasks to help the PM meet flight safety demands.

Effective monitoring can be improved in any aviation operation if:
Management buys in and supports the effort; Operational philosophies, policies, procedures and practices are designed to promote effective monitoring; and Monitoring is trained in context throughout a pilot's career as part of a pilot's basic flying skills.

It is clear that operators must establish policies and procedures on FPM and provide effective training for flightcrew and instructors to achieve required flight safety results.

Don Van Dyke is professor of advanced aerospace topics at Chicoutimi College of Aviation – CQFA Montreal. He is an 18,000 hour TT pilot and instructor with extensive airline, business and charter experience on both airplanes and helicopters. A former IATA ops director, he has served on several ICAO panels. He is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and is a flight operations expert on technical projects under UN administration.


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