When a pilot plans a flight do they take in to consideration a straight in approach or vectoring the airport or is this something that can only be decideed by ATC when they get near? Are any aircraft more suited to straight in approaches and do pilots prefer it?
Straight in approaches are more common and are default in commercial aviation. If you are talking about GA then traffic pattern approaches are more common. I don't think its something that a pilot normally considers in that much depth - they have approach plates so can conform to any requirements made by ATC. Last month I was on a flight into Gatwick and ATC put us into a holding pattern which did permit a straight in approach. I was on the left side and saw the runway and airport out the left window about 15 miles out as we banked to line up.
As long as a pilot has the approach plates then it shouldn't be a problem for them.
Into a busy commercial airport, pilots will be vectored most of the time. Sometimes there are minimal vectors for aircraft approaching from a direction that coincides with the direction of traffic flow but vectors and speed control for all aircraft is normal. A smart pilot plans for this.
The selection of pattern entry(straight in or other entry point to the pattern) is up to the controller at a towered airport. Pilots can request a specific entry but other traffic in the area will dictate if ATC will approve the request. Vectors to final is the normal way for large commercial aircraft but sometimes they do fly the pattern. I would say 90% are straight in approaches. Pilots normally prefer straight in approaches, they get you to the gate sooner. Straight in approach or flying the landing pattern has nothing to do with aircraft type, any aircraft can do either.
The Space Shuttle does not fly the traffic pattern, they really like only straight in approaches.