However looking at the flight radar http://www.flightradar24.com/ I see a lot of flights that take a more northern route and avoid all of those tracks, especially true for west coast flights. So what flights follow those tracks, and those going to the west coast, what tracks do they follow, if any?
boeing767er From Netherlands, joined Oct 2010, 28 posts, RR: 0 Reply 1, posted (2 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 2854 times:
Airlines have a choice when filing a flight plan.
The North Atlantic Tracks have been established to organise traffic between Europe and North America due to the complicated meteorological conditions. A jetstream running from roughly Alaska to North Eastern Europe prevents aircraft from flying fixed routings, as strength and location of this jetstream varies during the year.
It is basically a matter of great circle routings. Roughly estimated, all air traffic from France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Great Britain and Ireland use NAT routings to destinations on the Eastern half of the USA and Canada. Like I just said, it is a matter of great circle routings.
Flights "outside" the opening hours of the NAT tracks (Tracks are established twice a day, once by Gander, once by Shannon), or if a NAT track is not suitable will file a random route. These are a bunch of coordinates put together in a flight plan. (For instance N55W010 N56W020 etc etc..)