I admit the first idea I had in mind after watching the video of the spectacular Go-Around of a British Airways’s A320 in Gibraltar a few days ago was about an happy plane cheering the rock shaking its wings.
Stated that the health of my mind is low, I’ve started asking myself some questions and I tried to give various answers to them by chatting with real Airbus pilots or searching on the internet.
Well, of course, I am neither a pilot yet, nor an investigator, so my opinion and “explanation” must be taken as a begin for a pleasant discussion.
Firstly, I’d like to talk about the environment of Gibraltar and of the southern cost of Spain in general.
This zone, indeed, is usually very windy. I tried it myself in Tarifa (that is close to Gibraltar) this summer: I got hurt by the sand flying at a crazy speed.
Although the wind might have been strong during the approach it cannot have determined that behavior of the plane, but certainly wind is a component
I don’t know if you have ever been to Gibraltar but for sure you should know about the rock that occupies almost all the territory.
Indeed the airport is really close to that rock (there wasn’t an alternative).
The beautiful rock works like an obstacle to the wind that, as air is a fluid, generates a lot of vortexes. Those might be the main culprits of the spectacular shaky go around of the ‘Speedbird‘.
On some videos you can find on the net you can see clearly that as soon as the plane flies outside the projection of the rock it stabilizes again, look at the end of the post.
As you can see from this chart there is also a detailed depiction of the vortexes around the rock. This chart comes with a specific simulator training to land in one of the most challenging airports in Europe.
Now let’s focus on the missed approach itself.
At a first glance I thought that the wing shake could have been caused by the pilot over-reacting to the gusts.
But the best Airbus pilot I know told me that the missed approach procedure might be flown with the autopilot engaged, while on Boeing’s planes the autopilot automatically disconnects as the TO/GA button is pushed.
And indeed the Airbus systems are likely to focus on keeping the wings leveled, it happened in a lot of incidents.
Of course this is not at all a negative side of the Airbus philosophy, it’s a very useful assistance that allows the pilot to be fully concentrated on the emergency and not on the plane.
A final mention to the flight crew who behaved fantastically during this procedure, diverting the plane to Malaga and avoiding the passengers to be too scared with a second attempt.
I am really impatient to hear your opinion and explanation and to discuss together. The following video, from minute 5:30 shows the Go-Around from a passenger perspective.
Disclaimer: I don’t own the charts you saw, they are very old and it’s possible to look at them here. The video is copyrighted to Dave Clough.