An “overshoot” or “go-around” maneuver is performed to abort a landing: to make an airplane climb up and away as fast as possible. It can be done well, and it can be done badly.

A recent morning flight was a case in point. On a lark, I visited Greenbank airport, a little turf strip near Port Perry and Lake Scugog. During early training in Cessna 172s, I have occasionally landed there, just for the grass experience. Soft runways as short as these require special techniques to use safely.

I am not brave enough to try to land the Aztec, weighing twice as much as the C172, on such a small spot. But I still flew over it, and performed a low approach, perhaps 100 feet above the snow-covered runway. (Sorry, I was too busy to take a picture for you.) As I approached the trees at the far end, I started a faulty overshoot procedure. Full power, flaps up, gear up … wrong! With full power, the airplane indeed started to climb as one might expect the 500 hp of engine power to do. But then I screwed up: raised the flaps entirely while I was still accelerating. I promptly lost a bunch of lift, and the airplane felt like it started sinking! (Recall that this was with me already low, and with trees approaching. Oops!) It might not have been a real sink, just an attitude change, but it felt momentarily scary. I leveled off, waited briefly for the growing speed to compensate for the loss of lift, and off I went.

On the Aztec, there is no detent in the flap controls for an intermediate setting, so to do the proper action, which is to raise flaps to a fractional setting, requires several control movements. This is when one’s already busy just switching everything else over to a climb. And yet, when performance is critical, one has to make time: raise flaps partially; wait to make sure we’re not sinking; raise the gears; wait again; then finally raise the flaps completely. It is just not safe to shortcut this full procedure.

The other memorable overshoot experience of that session was in some ways the opposite. I visited the Oshawa airport for some circuit practice, including some low approach / overshoot practice to make up for my earlier screw-up. To finish off my half hour there, I made one final low approach, but in cruise rather than landing configuration. Power was medium/high, gears and flaps were already up. The airplane was very happy! Then tower asked me to climb out and turn away, to make room for someone else behind me.

I was happy to oblige. With full power, and no source of drag to remove, the Aztec rocketed forward and up. I banked steeply to the right to turn homeward, and pitched up to get away vertically too. The result was this almost aerobatic turning climb with the airplane partly on its side, shooting up and away. I would have paid good money to see that from the ground – heck, you might have been impressed too. In a few seconds, I was clear of the area. In a few hours, I still sported a grin.