I agree with above, I would add that Flaps are there to give you a speeper angle of approach and it also lowers your stall speed. That being said it also increases you drag. I have landed with with and without flaps i much prefer some flaps. BTW i have flown gliders with NO flaps, you must gage height on final circuit carefully.
Usually it is airspeed of the aircraft. Each aircraft has different airspeed requirements for operation the flaps or landing gear. Usually that speed is determined by the airframe manufacturers and the design of the flap system component. You could built it strong enough to handle any airspeed, but a plane can only carry so much weight. If you built everything to work without any limitations you might have an airplane too heavy to fly. Designing a plane is a balance between lifting capability and weight. Both of these are important design parameters.
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It is very common for small airports not to have a control tower, radar, or communications equipment. There are very well developed procedures for "uncontrolled airports". There is a standard traffic pattern that aircraft fly at almost all airports (consisting of a downwind, base, final, and upwind leg) and there are specific radio calls that are supposed to be made at certain points in the pattern. Most airports have a fixed base operator to supply fuel and services. They often monitor the common traffic frequency and supply some info to pilots about wind direction and runway in use. There's also a specific way to enter the pattern - usually at a 45 degree of the downwind leg, Yes it's possible for aircraft to collide and it happens several times a year - usually when a low wing airplane is above a high wing airplane in the pattern. Neither can see the other so occasionally that can happen.
There are some speed limits for certain types of airspace. Airliners are always in contact with air traffic control and in order to keep the required separation of aircraft sometimes the controllers will ask the pilot to maintain an airspeed. More than likely you experienced a slowdown while your plane was beginning an approach, During approach controllers have to maintain specific spacing between aircraft and often must slow them down behind slower aircraft. Your plane very likely was slowing down from approx 570 knots to 250 knots or less for the approach.
Your question is a good one - but the answer is much more complicated that you would expect. Think about driving your car from point A to point B across a city. Lots of paths - some shorter than others, but the shortest path may not be the quickest. Or the quickest may involve a toll road - and you may or may not be in a hurry.
The usual most important factor (for commercial operations, at least) is to save money, while still arriving on time. Airplanes in the air are subject to the winds aloft, which will generally be at different strengths AND DIRECTIONS at different altitudes. Most airplanes operate more efficiently at higher altitudes (up to limits), but at those higher altitudes the plane may face stiffer headwind. Further, it costs time and fuel to climb to those altitudes, and you will not regain coming down as much as it took going up. [Think of a bicycle on hilly terrain vs. level ground.]
So what's the answer? Well, for most trips the pilot will consider all these factors. They are taught during training how to plan the flight in terms of time and fuel required, and to include in that especially the winds at different altitudes. Then they will pick the altitude, whatever that is, that maximizes the results that they consider most important.