The wheels went down. There I was, ready for landing. The approach was smooth, on a clear blue North Carolina day. It was an exhausting long trip, 13 hours since I left Buenos Aires. I was sad, coming back from saying a last goodbye to my beloved mother in law. As we were coming down I was contemplating the familiar landscape, with the uncertainty of how I would cope with this loss in the family, and the unfamiliar sense of emptiness.
Touchdown was only seconds away. Suddenly the aircraft went from a gentle descent to a rapid and sharp climb. Then we heard a calm and reassuring voice: “Folks, we had to abort our approach and we are making a second attempt. The tower just alerted us that we were coming down too steep. We should be on the ground in about 15 minutes” – the captain said.
Immediately, my head started spinning, always needing to give meaning to everything. I noticed that the pilot had just made me realize that I was coming down “too steep” with my emotions -- I was about to crash with my pain! His calm voice, instead, gave me a new chance to control my emotions and try a new approach.
Of course, I had to share my story with my husband, and he explained that “the maneuver is called go-around, and it represents a routine safety procedure to keep planes out of trouble. It is a precautionary option”, he said. Just as in our personal lives, sometimes we need to make a decision, execute a safe go-around, and choose wisely before we crash!
Not an ideal situation, but a go-around is meant to be a preventive measure. For pilots, executing this maneuver is quite straightforward, but it requires making a quick decision and focus 100% on the task at hand. It is intense. They have practiced hundreds of these. They are trained to do it safely.
In life, like in flying, we don’t always make perfect approaches and landings. But think about it, how often do you even consider the option to go-around, embrace the concept of “let's start over” or “let's start fresh”?
When should we execute a go-around? To me, the answer is anytime we feel uncomfortable with any aspect of what we are saying, thinking, doing or delivering. Yes, it might mean starting over, changing gears, trying something new, telling ourselves a different story. During the go-around you are in control, but the alternative is crashing, and it might take a while to recover if you are lucky.
My flight back home taught me that no matter how close we are, how familiar the landscape is, how big our emotions are or how quickly we want to be done with something, there is always a go-around option that can put us back on track. The earlier we perform a go-around the better, but it is never too late.