Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hard Landings

Descending, Dublin

I had the displeasure of flying Ryanair again recently, to Malaga and back. Actually, the flight itself was fine and the cramped seating wasn't that uncomfortable for a shortish flight, a bit like being on a crowded 46A bus traveling over occasionally bumpy roads (the dark blue and yellow colour scheme was also very C.I.E.). No, the problem was the landing. I sensed it might be a bad one as we came to the last suspended rush, a held breath before the undercarriage –– all that separates our fuselage (so much plastic and alloy, paper and air) –– from the implacably hard, racing earth. Too fast, I thought, and too vertical, this is going to be yet another hard-arsed, Ryanair jolt to the spine. I braced myself by gripping the seat in front. Sure enough, there was a shocking, almighty WHUMP before the reverse-thrust roar kicked in, and I knew we'd survived.

Melodramatic? Maybe, but when I entrust myself to those who will convey my one, mortal incarnation 12,000 meters above where it rightly belongs I expect them to be mindful of my/our frailty. Not all Ryanair landings are this unpleasant (just most of them in my experience); I've noticed that when the engines are given an extra boost just before the wheels meet the runway the landing is lovely and smooth. Knowing Ryanair's obsession with cost-saving, I have speculated whether the pilots have been instructed (off the record) to cut their engines (or reduce power) prior to landing to save fuel. Is this possible, or even legal re airline safety regulations?

Incidentally, years ago, on what may have been my first (hard) Ryanair landing, when I heard that ridiculous cavalry trumpet over the intercom (actually to celebrate another flight arriving on or ahead of schedule), I mistakenly thought it was a kind of one-off joke, gallows humour along the lines of: 'Gee guys, apologies for the terrible landing, but hey, we're still in one piece!'

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