I’ve never been on a commercial flight that’s had to make a go-around, so it was fun to watch a Southwest flight do one at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport a few minutes ago. I’m sure it was a lot less fun for those aboard.
I currently work in a building that has a fourth-floor patio with a view of Sky Harbor. The prevailing winds typically allow me to watch planes as they land. I go out there a couple times a day to stretch my legs and enjoy some fresh air. And watch planes.
Today, just as I stepped onto the patio, I heard a Southwest jet roar its engines and watched it climb out of its final approach. A go-around! The plane appeared to have been heading for runway 25R on the south side of the airport. In spite of the heat, I stayed on the patio for a while and watched as it circled to the south and then turned east.
It left my view for a short time as it flew several miles to the east, but a few minutes later it was back on the final approach to the same runway, where it landed normally.
I went back to my desk and pulled up recent flights on FlightAware. The flight I saw was apparently Southwest flight 1524 from Burbank. You can actually see the go-around in the flight track and altitude data.
See it here: http://flightaware.com/live/flight/SWA1524/history/20120604/1925ZZ/KBUR/KPHX (FlightAware)
Myself, I’ve had to execute several go-arounds as a private pilot. One time it was because I was too high on my visual approach. I doubt that was the case for a seasoned pilot in a sophisticated jetliner. Most of the go-arounds I’ve done were for separation at busy airports. If I had to guess, that was probably the case here.