People who have been traveling through the air for a long time know this for a fact; plane landings were a lot less bumpy and “scary” back in the old days when apparently the technology wasn’t close to today’s advancement. So what are the reasons that the landings seem to be harder today?
To understand that, you’ll first have to get a grip on what are some of the factors that affect any plane landing:
- Hydraulic Settings: Sometimes an aircraft lands harder even with a light load because the hydraulic piston shaft set inside the landing gear has been calibrated to withstand maximum capacity. This is the reason the aircraft will bounce upon touchdown.
- Weather conditions: Strong wind currents can ruin even a perfect landing by a pilot.
- Altitude: Airports located high altitude always have hard landings, since the air is thin. Thus when landing, the plane quickly loses airspeed with wing lift disappearing in a flash.
- The smoothness and roughness of the runway also contribute to the comfort of landing.
- Runway length: This is probably the most significant one. The pilot who cares more about safety and less about showing off usually uses a short field approach and aims to land at a specific target using the main landing gear. This result is a harder, yet safer landing, with the problem of floating in ground effect avoided.
During an aircraft’s soft landing, the wings’ lift is equal to the weight of the aircraft; meaning there is no traction on the wheels. But this means that the plane has to run longer on the runway, with the brakes being applied gradually to shed aircraft’s speed and thus lift. This might be possible in smaller aircraft, but can’t be afforded by the larger ones.
So to avoid running out of the runway, and to make sure the plane lands and stops within safe limits, a firm touchdown is necessary. This wasn’t made mandatory by the aircraft companies before, but given today’s tighter safety considerations, a “hard touchdown” has almost been made a routine practice.