What makes the perfect landing? Beautiful scenery, jovial ground crew, and white-knuckle crosswinds that mean the autopilot stays off; according to the pilots we questioned, that's the secret of job satisfaction.
1. Naples, Italy
"The views during descent and approach are breath-taking! I enjoy the challenges this airport brings due to the steeper than normal approaches to both runways. The approach to Runway 06 is also offset requiring a visual transition to line up with the runway centreline. Stepping out onto the ramp into the sunshine during the turnaround is always an added bonus!
"Closer to home, my absolute favourite is London Heathrow. On a clear day the views of the city approaching Runways 27L and 27R from the north are amazing. The air traffic controllers here are second to none, another reason I love flying into this airport. It always amazes me the outstanding job they do in precisely managing the heavy flow of traffic both into and out of here." – Captain Sonya Bissett, Aer Lingus
2. Christchurch, New Zealand
The view landing into Christchurch looks so warm!!⛄️ pic.twitter.com/x8DUpNl5Pr— Nathan Jack (@nathanjack10) July 27, 2016
"I love to fly into Christchurch as it has the most incredible landscape: it's the ultimate scenic flight. Alps covered in snow, valleys filled with cerulean blue snow melt and patchwork fields covered in tiny white sheep-dots. After landing we're always met with a friendly Kiwi smile and a subtle ribbing as to how we're doing in the rugby or cricket." – Captain Mark Goodwin, Qantas
3. Leeds Bradford, UK
"Returning to Leeds Bradford after the dry plains of Spain is always a treat. From the flight deck I can see the beautiful rolling hills of Yorkshire. What always surprises me is just how green the landscape is.
"I also love going into Gibraltar. It has such a great approach as you sweep around the massive rock with a view of all the gigantic tankers moored out in the bay. It really is a truly epic arrival but no chance to take photos – for obvious safety reasons!" – Pilot Paul Fox, Monarch
4. Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
"Funchal is always exciting. The airport is on the stunning volcanic island of Madeira, rising out of the Atlantic in an archipelago of a few small islands. The runway is carved into the side of a mountain with a steep slope on one side and a 200ft drop into the sea on the other. Half of the runway is actually built on stilts as there was not enough land to build a runway of sufficient length.
"All approaches to Funchal are visual: pilots must use their high levels of training, judgement and flying skill to negotiate the curving approach to the runway. This is while managing the wind conditions that swirl around the mountain and cause quickly changing cross and tailwinds. Only certain pilots are certified to fly there." – Captain Ally Wilcox, British Airways
5. Innsbruck, Austria
"Innsbruck Kranebitten Airport in Austria is my favourite airport. The views of the Alps that we get from the flight deck on most days are just amazing.
"We get special training every year in the simulator for this airport as it's especially challenging: the mountains that surround the airport; the possibility of heavy snow; strong winds that can come down the Brenner Pass causing quite bad turbulence; and a rather short runway. But that makes it even more rewarding flying there!" – Pilot Rob Kooyman, Monarch
"Innsbruck is one of the most challenging airports we fly to at British Airways; it requires extra simulator training as it is so technical. I love the challenge of a different style of approach, and the breath-taking views as you descend into the valley. It's such a rewarding feeling when you land into such a beautiful corner of the earth." – First Officer Katie Leask, British Airways
6. Jersey, UK
"My favourite UK airport would be Jersey. It is technically interesting: it has a fairly short runway for a medium-sized jet aircraft which requires careful planning and landing distance calculations. When the doors are opened it is almost always warmer than mainland UK – it just shouts 'holiday time' at you.
"Further afield, my current favourite is Athens. We normally arrive onto the northerly runway 03L due to prevailing local winds. It's a very early arrival and we watch the sun rise on the way in. After landing we are usually met by Stavros our local crazy Greek handler who has us all laughing with his latest escapades – often in rather too much detail…" – DB, European Freight operator
7. London Heathrow, UK
"I love arriving at London Heathrow. First officers, who sit on the right side of the cockpit, usually have the best views when landing. I love to see the Thames, and the old docklands once famed for their 'forest of masts', a reminder of London's great maritime history that's somehow particularly pleasing to contemplate from the flight deck of a modern-day vessel like a 747.
"Cape Town is also spectacular. After a long, quiet overnight journey across Europe and from one end of Africa to the other, there's nothing quite like the sight of Table Mountain rising just as dawn breaks. From the air, looking out at one of the world's most beautiful intersections of land and sea, it's obvious why this city remains one of the most popular destinations for crew and customers alike.
"It's also handy for Diaz Beach, my favourite beach in the world, which is near the Cape of Good Hope. It's at the bottom of a challenging set of steps, and it's often too rough and cold to swim here, but it's the perfect place to put on your headphones, catch some sun, and watch two oceans at work." – Pilot Mark Vanhoenacker, British Airways
8. New York, USA
"JFK's 'Canarsie' approach is my personal favourite. Named after the navigation aid (VOR) on which it is based, this approach is essentially a cloud break manoeuvre to runway 13L at Kennedy, designed to get you in position to complete the landing visually.
"Quite often given at short notice, this can be a challenging approach in a large aircraft, and a daunting one if the weather is poor. It is one of very few approaches in a large commercial aircraft where a pilot has the opportunity to switch all the automation off and fly the aircraft manually whilst remaining visual with the runway on a curved descent profile, often with a healthy tailwind until close to the runway." – Captain Michael Landy, Aer Lingus
9. Hamilton Island, Whitsundays, Australia
"The approach to Hamilton takes you across beautiful island beaches and turquoise ocean vistas. Yachts are regularly in the vicinity and the airport is next to a marina. The surroundings, along with the demeanour of the staff, make you feel more relaxed as soon as you arrive. It makes you never want to leave!" – Captain Al Crawford, Qantas
10. Stavanger, Norway
"One of my favourite approaches is on to Runway 18 at Stavanger Sola Airport in Norway. On a clear day, flying down the coastline and then over the lakes as you approach the airport is absolutely stunning." – First Officer Hannah Vaughan, British Airways
Gibraltar landing is as dramatic as ever... pic.twitter.com/BtRvBJEdG2— Chris Stringer (@ChrisStringer65) September 20, 2016
"Gibraltar can be rather challenging with the limits on the wind as it rolls around the rock and can make it extremely turbulent on landing, but what I really like is the fact it's also rather an old school approach. They have no landing aids at Gibraltar, so it's back to basics: just the stick and rudder.
"No autopilot is used and it is hand flown visually; its great when landing onto the easterly runways and you come in low around the rock and pass the harbour for a touchdown on a very short runway. The main road into Gibraltar actually crosses the runway, so they stop the traffic and pedestrians.
"The easiest place to land is Faro on the Algarve. The flight is very straight forward, with very little radio talk. Portuguese air traffic control is very chilled: the minute you come into Portuguese airspace you're cleared straight to final approach. Its ground crew are very relaxed too." – Anonymous commercial pilot
12. Beijing, China
"When I started going to Beijing more than 20 years ago, all the aircraft cleaners (up to 20) stood on parade to meet the arrival. They stood at attention, to one side, all dressed in the same uniform, only breaking ranks to come on board once you had parked. It gave the impression to the crew and customers of being met by a guard of honour, and is something that will always remain with me.
"The other destination that stands out for me is Malė in the Maldives which still has the most fantastic views of coral atolls that you are likely to see anywhere in the world." – Captain Geoff Leask, British Airways
13. Kittilä, Finland
"My home country Kittilä, in northern Finland, is at its best during the winter months when there is hardly any daylight and often freezing fog, which gives it a fairytale-like lighting when the lights reflect upwards and there is a lot of snow. You are met by friendly staff, and the passengers are like children playing with in the snow when exiting the plane. During the winter season you might even see Santa Claus with his reindeer.
Worldwide, my pick would be Hong Kong with the tiny islands popping up from the sea and the high green hills around the populated area. One would never think that there is so much unpopulated land around the city with skyscrapers and millions of inhabitants. I guess there is hardly an office with a better view…" – Captain Camilla Sommar, Finnair
14. Ilulissat, Greenland
"I recently flew to Ilulissat, a very remote coastal town in the Qaasuitsup municipality in western Greenland. With a population of only around 5,000 people and because of its location north of the Arctic Circle, it is one of the most peaceful places that I have ever been to.
"The nearby Ilulissat Icefjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with astonishing giant white icebergs coming off the most productive glacier in the northern hemisphere. You can't help but be captured by the serenity of the place." – Jonny Nicol, Founder and CEO of Stratajet
15. San Francisco, USA
"An amazing approach with spectacular and iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. It's also a wonderful city to spend a few days in.
"I normally set off for a bike ride at first light, cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge, stopping for breakfast in Sausalito before heading out into the hills in the Marin Headlands. To get back across the bay at the end of the day it's either the ferry or back up over the bridge depending on how much energy I have left." – Senior First Officer Ian Palframan, British Airways
The Telegraph, London
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