Q –  I have been flying for the past two decades, mostly to larger metropolitan areas. I have noticed that some pilots, particularly those with Delta, seem to make harsher landings while American pilots seem to glide in more softly. I wonder why this is and also wonder about any of the larger airports where you have to come in fast and hard for safety reasons. Any light you can shed on this would be appreciated. Don’t mean to denigrate Delta in any way – I actually prefer the airline to any of their competitors and am a very frequent flyer. 

A – So you think maybe Delta pilots are trained to make hard landings while American pilots are taught to be more laid back on landing and to do it “ever so softly”. You didn’t mention what you do for a living – we’re hoping you’re not a clinical psychologist.

Pilots are generally told what landing speed to maintain. It has absolutely nothing to do with the brand or the pilots who work for that brand. Instead, you will find that it has a lot more to do with the length of the specific runway where you are landing. Some of the most notoriously short runways in the US are found at Midway in Chicago, John Wayne in southern California, and Washington D.C.’s Reagan International. Long, slower, softer landings are not recommended on shorter runways because they tend to use up too much “pavement” something pilots are loathe to do. So next time you encounter a “rough” landing it may mean that your pilot is being extra cautious. If you are flying DL or AA you are in the hands of some of the best qualified worldwide.  

Just to relax you on your next flight, let’s take a quick look below at “The World’s Most Dangerous Airport”, Lukla in eastern Nepal. 

Lukla and the Tenzing-Hillary Airport, 2881m elevation, Everest Base Camp Trekking Route, Nepal Lukla is the starting point for most trecks to Mount Everest Base Camp. Tenzing-Hillary airport has a single runway that is 460m by 20m with a 12% gradient. Aircraft can only use runway 06 for landings and runway 24 for takeoffs. Due to the terrain, there is no prospect of a successful go-around on short final. There is high terrain immediately after the northern end of the runway and a steeply angled drop, of about 2000m at the southern end of the runway, into the valley below.
The airport is rated as the most dangerous in the world.