17 March 2017

That was an interesting landing…

It is very unusual to get such a clear picture of the entire Atlanta airport from so up close. If you are wondering what happened – this is the answer… We were flying in from San Francisco. The plane twisted and turned about 30 miles before the airport and aligned itself to land from the West end (all the 5 active runways at Atlanta airports run East West) and then something funny happened once we hit about 7000 feet.

The pilot had made all the necessary announcements and then I realized instead of continuously losing height, the nose seemed to even out and then we banked a little more and then straightened out. Which means we were aligned with the runways but we would be missing them by a couple of miles if we are hitting the ground.

And soon, I realized that we are not landing after all. For whatever reason, we had changed our minds and instead we just flew along the runway. Seemed like a last minute change of mind. Perhaps sudden change of wind direction? Checked the wind speeds – only 13 mph. Meant nothing for a big 737-900.

We went to the other end – flying parallely to the runways on the North end and then eventually banked back and landed from the East end. After the flight landed, I asked the air hostesses – they were of no help. And the cockpit door was still closed. Could not ask the pilots and a plane full of people wanting to get off a plane they had been in for over four hours did not help 🙂

For the life of me, I could not figure out why we tried to position ourselves to one end of the runway, and then flew along the runway and then landed from the other side. On the plus side, it let me take some lateral pictures of the whole airport from barely five miles away in the air. That is a great sight for frequent fliers from Atlanta airport like me…

Posted March 17, 2017 by Rajib Roy in category "Travelogs


  1. By Sri Ganesh on

    Several possibilities. From India experience
    There was a cow on runway
    There were stray dogs
    A plane is on the runway
    VIP Flight got priority
    Sudden wind movement and hence decided to change.

  2. By Stephen Hunter on

    Runway changes at busy airports are choreographed. So conveniently aligned to land to the east with a change to land to the west usually encompasses turns to offset and align with the new runway if the airport has one or two runways.

    However, Atlanta has many runways and lots of traffic and airplanes are beginning to takeoff to the west also and believe it or not staying higher and going directly over the airport is more efficient for all the departures too since they mostly turn on a departure to get headed toward their destination at a lower altitude.

    So you’re great pictures are a product of efficient air traffic management. How often doe that happen?

  3. By Aron on

    Reminds me of a San Diego joke (airport with famously short runway, Lindbergh field):

    A pilot and a co-pilot were descending for a landing at an Lindbergh field in the fog, neither had never been to before. The pilot looked out the windshield, and suddenly exclaimed to the co-pilot: “Holy cow! Look how short the runway is! I’ve never seen one that short!”

    The co-pilot looked out the windshield. “Wow! you re right! That’s incredible! Are you sure we can make it?”

    “Well we better, we’re almost out of fuel.” So the captain got on the intercom, and notified the passengers to put their heads between their knees, and prepare for an emergency landing. Then he set the flaps to full down, and slowed the plane to just over stall speed. The big jumbo jet
    came screaming in, almost out of control. The pilot’s hands were sweating, the co-pilot was praying. They touched down, and came screeching to a halt just before the edge of the runway, the tires smoking. “WHEW! That was CLOSE!” yelled the captain. “That runway was SHORT!”

    “Yeah!” said the co-pilot, “but look how WIDE it is!”


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