Video: Runway Disappears after Minimums

BBJ crew reacts quickly as heavy rain starts to fall.

It looks like a routine ILS approach as the crew of a Boeing Business Jet descends through 500 feet toward the runway on a gray, rainy day. On reaching minimums at around 200 feet, the airplane is on glidepath and a landing appears certain as the rabbit lights and runway are clearly visible straight ahead. Then something unexpected happens. Have a look:

The crew was on a Cat I ILS when the runway vanished moments after reaching decision height. In an airliner-sized business jet at such a low altitude, that’s a dicey proposition. Immediately the captain announces his intention to go around and adds full power.

It’s hard to say how high above the runway the BBJ was before initiating the missed approach, but it appears to be right around 100 feet, and certainly higher than 50 feet since no GPWS callout is heard in the video shot from the jumpseat.

In any case, the crew executed a textbook go-around similar to what they would have practiced in the simulator during recurrent training. It's not clear whether this BBJ is equipped with an enhanced-vision system connected to the captain's HUD, but EVS cannot see through solid cloud and rain such as this, and besides, to legally land the pilot flying a Cat I ILS approach must be able to actually see the runway environment. (That requirement might be changing soon, however, after the FAA this week issued a proposal to allow EVS use beyond the current 100-foot minumum all the way to touchdown.)

Once the rain really started coming down, the captain couldn’t see a thing, and made the correct decision to go missed, even though he was well past "decision" height.