Going Around

I see go-arounds all the time at John Wayne Airport.  And not just with general aviation aircraft. 

The big runway is only 5700 feet long, so there’s not much room for error, especially with some of the larger transport airplanes that fly into the airport.  For example, FedEx sends a fully loaded Airbus A300 jumbo into Orange County each day.  As far as I know, that is the largest airplane to land at SNA.

Anyway, the Southern California geography gives us a semi-permanent inversion layer, and it’s typically accompanied by a slight windshear at that altitude.

Of course, sometimes that shear is stronger than others, and a few days ago I watched 6 airliners go around in the space of 30 minutes.  One of them was a Southwest 737 which turned final about 1.5 miles out with what was probably a 50-55 degree bank.  He did his best to drop down to the runway, but was fighting a strong tailwind that didn’t abate until around 600′ AGL.

Those of us in the area were razzing him pretty badly.  Someone said “$5 he doesn’t make it”.  Another chimed in with “I’ll put ten on it” and I piled on with “count me in for fifteen bucks”.  Eventually he started the go-around, and I keyed the mike with one final shot:  “If he was a tailwheel pilot I’m sure he would have made it…”.

It was all in good fun.  I think Southwest got the final laugh, though.  A few minutes after his aborted landing, a different Southwest jet was slow to cross 19L and I had to do a go-around of my own.

4 comments

  1. Sounds like you all had an exciting day at the airport.

    It reminds me of the day a PWA P737 had to go-around at CYXD due to a Cessna training aircraft. The 737 pilot make some complaint like, “This go-around is costing us $$(some amount)!” From then on, until the ’37 had landed, the controller started giving instructions to the other aircraft in the circuit in money-terms: “Cessna XYZ, extend your downwind another 25 cents…” etc…

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