Science: Lights for the Slot

Bringing any sort of big airliner down to a gentle—or safe—landing is a considerable stunt. But heavy, fast, steeply sinking jet planes have made the proposition even trickier. Their pilots cannot make a so-so approach and depend on last-minute power adjustments to keep them from overshooting or undershooting the runway. They must fly "by the numbers"—at precise letdown speeds, with their wing flaps set precisely right and their noses at the correct angle. Once a 150-ton jet is committed to land, it must follow a very narrow "slot of forgiveness," never deviating appreciably as it approaches the runway.

This is not easy...

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