propilot83
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Flying Over North & South Poles!

Fri Jun 19, 2009 6:32 pm

I was just curious if any pilot knows if you can actually fly over the North and South Poles to reduce destination range. For example if you fly from Los Angeles to Kabul, Afghanistan on a route over the North Pole N90 - the distance is about 7800 miles compared to flying around the globe. Is this possible for the navigational instrumentation? Do airliners actually fly over the north and south pole to reduce distances in miles? I know there is the great circle route, however flying over the North and South pole is totally something else.
 
wilco737
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Fri Jun 19, 2009 6:46 pm



Quoting Propilot83 (Thread starter):
Do airliners actually fly over the north and south pole to reduce distances in miles?

Yes. Back in the good old days LH Cargo was flying from GOT to FAI or from FRA to FAI and the routing often passed the North Pole or at least pretty close to it.
I am sure there are still flights which pass these areas like the SIN-EWR flight, IIRC

wilco737
 
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golfradio
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Fri Jun 19, 2009 7:43 pm

Polar routes are very common. United, Air Canada, Air China all fly polar routes for connecting North America and Asia.

You can find more information on Operations at this Boeing website Polar Route Operations
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Jetlagged
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Fri Jun 19, 2009 7:48 pm

Of course, there's no real problem as long as the magnetic compass is ignored. Most if not all airliners have the ability to slave the compass to a directional gyro in high latitudes, or to switch heading source from magnetic to true. Trans-polar flights been done for many years. There was even an old video (late 1960s) posted here a while back showing a PanAm 707 doing exactly this on an INS proving flight. The aircraft flew due north from LHR to the pole, turned and flew due south to it's destination (JFK from memory).
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XXXX10
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Sat Jun 20, 2009 12:19 am

Might be worth checking out this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxoVm2BAR28

Not sure if LAX-KBL does fly over directly over the pole (can be viewed on www.kls2.com)

I am sure many flights go over the polar region but I would imagine that it is rare to fly over the pole itself.
 
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Starlionblue
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Sat Jun 20, 2009 12:31 am



Quoting Propilot83 (Thread starter):
Is this possible for the navigational instrumentation? Do airliners actually fly over the north and south pole to reduce distances in miles? I know there is the great circle route, however flying over the North and South pole is totally something else.

Navigational instruments are not a problem. Magnetic compasses are standby instruments nowadays. Inertial guidance and GPS don't care if you fly over the pole.

I don't understand why it is "totally something else" from a a great circle route.

Another example of a flight that flies close to the North Pole is JFK-HKG.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
CosmicCruiser
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Sat Jun 20, 2009 2:50 am

We used to do FRA-ANC over the pole but now we do FRA-ALA-and points east so the pole is out. It was neat if not a little underwhelming. The mag compass didn't do what I expected.
 
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Starlionblue
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Sat Jun 20, 2009 5:41 am



Quoting CosmicCruiser (Reply 6):
The mag compass didn't do what I expected.

Start spinning faster and faster until it collapsed into a singularity and sucked the airplane in with it, spitting you out of a white hole on the other side where a robot called V.I.N.CENT. greeted you?  Wink
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
VirginFlyer
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Sat Jun 20, 2009 5:46 am

Quoting Propilot83 (Thread starter):
I know there is the great circle route, however flying over the North and South pole is totally something else.

I think you may be a little confused over the concept of great circle. The great circle isn't any particular route in and of itself - it is the shortest distance between two points on a sphere. [Technical detail alert - it is actually the shortest distance between two points on an oblate spheroid, which is what the Earth is. The model commonly used (at least in my experience) is known as WGS84, meaning the World Geodetic System 1984, although I seem to recall reading of a different geodetic model being used by the Soviet Union, and I don't know if this is still used anywhere]

For the sake of simplicity, lets consider a sphere. If you were to mark two points on your sphere, and then cut it precisely in half to give two equal semi-spheres, with the cut passing through the two marked points, then the cut would be the great circle. The arc of this cut between your two marked points is the shortest great circle route between the two points.

I have a feeling you may be thinking of a specific great circle route, possibly the well known one between east coast of North America and Europe, however this isn't "the" great circle route, it is simply "a" great circle route. You may want to play around with this great site - it should give you a good idea of great circle routes between different places:

http://gc.kls2.com/

Be aware that the routes shown are simply the calculated great circle between the points you choose, and that they won't necessarily bear any resemblance to the air routes actually used for a number of reasons including airspace management and longer ground-distance routes that make use of more favourable winds. I'd encourage you to have a read of the FAQ on the site to understand how it works and what its limitations are.

[Edit - taking my own advice and looking at the FAQ, just found this article which explains the great circle concept in a slightly more mathematical fashion. Caution, trigonometry and matrix algebra ahead, proceed at your own peril: http://plus.maths.org/issue7/features/greatcircles/ ]

Hope this helps,

V/F

[Edited 2009-06-19 22:51:26]
"So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth." - Bahá'u'lláh
 
Tristarsteve
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Sat Jun 20, 2009 9:10 am



Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 3):
Most if not all airliners have the ability to slave the compass to a directional gyro in high latitudes

That brings me back. Compasses and Directional Gyros. I am afraid, except for the tiny standby compass, most airliners do not have a compass anymore. The Tristar had magnetic flux detectors in the wingtips, and a real DG, but any large airliner built nowadays has no main compass at all. All heading info comes from ADIRU and GPS.

Reading this thread, you would imagine that it is no problem at all to fly over the pole. But the aircraft must be equipped and certified for this task. Our B767 are not fitted with the right gear., they even have problems flying from Europe to Calgary as the route brushes their northern latitude limit.
 
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Starlionblue
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Sat Jun 20, 2009 1:12 pm



Quoting TristarSteve (Reply 9):
Reading this thread, you would imagine that it is no problem at all to fly over the pole. But the aircraft must be equipped and certified for this task. Our B767 are not fitted with the right gear., they even have problems flying from Europe to Calgary as the route brushes their northern latitude limit.

Well, as I understand it the extra equipment to be carried and the fuel calculations have little to do with navigation. The article cited above is quite informative: http://www.boeing.com/commercial/aeromagazine/aero_16/polar_story.html

Quoting TristarSteve (Reply 9):
The Tristar had magnetic flux detectors in the wingtips

What about flux capacitors?  Wink
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
EcuadorianMD11
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Sat Jun 20, 2009 2:27 pm



Quoting VirginFlyer (Reply 8):
I have a feeling you may be thinking of a specific great circle route, possibly the well known one between east coast of North America and Europe, however this isn't "the" great circle route, it is simply "a" great circle route. You may want to play around with this great site - it should give you a good idea of great circle routes between different places:

Exactly, there are an unlimited amount of great circle routes on this ellips (WGS 84) shaped planet we live on.

Definition of Great Circle: the shortest route between 2 positions.
But an even better definition: a line that cuts the globe into 2 identical halves!!

Any position on earth has a great circle to any random destination.
Between your house and the supermarket there is a Rhumb line (the route you tend to plan on a road map) and a Great Circle route.
Sometimes Great Circles coincide with Rhumb lines (the route we plan on our maps with the traditional projection) like courses that go due South or North.
Also, when you happen to follow the equator, the route you draw on your road map will be a great circle. In other words, you could Great Circle in your own car, wheelbarrow or segway!!

However, when you were (to give you an example) to go on a SW-ly course your Rhumb line (the straight line on your road map) is actually the long way round!
Why?
It is impossible to project an ellips on a flat piece of paper, so your great circle will be a curved line I´m afraid!

There are special projections that do portray the Great Circle as a straight line and the Rhumb line as a curved line...........these charts are called Gnomonic charts.

The easiest way around this is to use an old fashioned globe.........and look up (for argument´s sake) Amsterdam - New York, and you´ll see what we mean.
There is the straightforward route..........going due West, but if you go up towards the pole (and on the Southern hemisphere it´s down obviously) you´ll see that is actually shorter!
Just make sure that your imaginary line Amsterdam - New York cuts the globe into 2 identical halves, and you´ve cracked it!

For ships the Vertex (the highest or lowest point in the route) is majorly important because of ice!

Here´s one to think about...........why did the Titanic run into ice??
For exactly that same reason..........Great Circling.

Ecuadorian MD11
A lot of people need to be offended on a regular basis I always felt, and I�´m the very boy to do it! - Billy Connolly
 
timz
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Sat Jun 20, 2009 10:34 pm

I guess you could call the equator a Great Circle, but that's the only one on any ellipsoid. The shortest path between two points on the ellipsoid isn't a plane curve (unless the two points are both on a N-S line, or both on the equator). In other words, on the ellipsoid you can't usually slice thru the earth to get the shortest route.
 
CosmicCruiser
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Sun Jun 21, 2009 6:44 am



Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 7):
Start spinning faster and faster until it collapsed into a singularity and sucked the airplane in with it, spitting you out of a white hole on the other side where a robot called V.I.N.CENT. greeted you?

Wow! and I thought I was the only one to do that!!
 
ThirtyEcho
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Sun Jun 21, 2009 7:30 am



Quoting EcuadorianMD11 (Reply 11):
Here´s one to think about...........why did the Titanic run into ice??

Because the binoculars for the lookouts had been left back in England? That is a bit of a joke but it is also true.

Yours was a very good post and it took me back to my flight school days. Long range aerial navigation is a fascinating topic and I am astounded at the feats performed by the early airline navigators.

Thanks.
 
wn700driver
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Mon Jun 22, 2009 11:22 am

Just out of curiosity, what is done to counter the potential issues regarding solar storms? I'm ashamed that I don't know this, as I am a certified A&P and Dispatcher, but I've never had to deal with polar ops before either, go fig. . .

Anyway, I do know that during a violent enough CME (coronal mass ejection), a flood of ions and even protons will smash into the Van Allen belts, and flow all the way down to the poles. As we all know, very mild versions of this event cause the northern (and southern) lights, but I've always wondered what something more substantial (Like the CME that occurred on the far side of the sun in 2006) might do to trans polar traffic. . .
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Jetlagged
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Mon Jun 22, 2009 11:39 am



Quoting ThirtyEcho (Reply 14):
Because the binoculars for the lookouts had been left back in England? That is a bit of a joke but it is also true.

Almost true. Binoculars weren't available for use. Binoculars were aboard, in a locker the second officer's cabin. That officer did not sail from Southampton and no one else knew they were there...

Moonless night, flat calm, binoculars wouldn't have been any use.
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borism
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Mon Jun 22, 2009 12:36 pm



Quoting Wn700driver (Reply 15):
Just out of curiosity, what is done to counter the potential issues regarding solar storms? I'm ashamed that I don't know this, as I am a certified A&P and Dispatcher, but I've never had to deal with polar ops before either, go fig. . .

Apparently polar route flight planners take space weather into account as well and may even reroute already proceeding flight to avoid polar regions. Fortunately solar flares usually take few hours to reach our planet, however some high intensity ones may take only quarter of an hour! Let's just say that you get quite a dose of radiation on any polar flight.

There's quite a lot of information about these issues on the Web if you do a little search, but it would be great to get first hand experiences of people actually planning and flying these routes!
 
EcuadorianMD11
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Tue Jun 23, 2009 7:35 pm

quote=ThirtyEcho,reply=14]Because the binoculars for the lookouts had been left back in England? That is a bit of a joke but it is also true.

Yours was a very good post and it took me back to my flight school days. Long range aerial navigation is a fascinating topic and I am astounded at the feats performed by the early airline navigators.

Thanks.[/quote]

Haha, true, true!!
I should have said "encountered" instead!
Glad that a rough seaman can be of any use here on Airliners.net!!!

Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 16):
Moonless night, flat calm, binoculars wouldn't have been any use.

Since when are binoculars no good in flat calm weather?
I use them on a daily basis in my job.........regardless of weather!

Cheers folks,


Ecuadorian MD11.
A lot of people need to be offended on a regular basis I always felt, and I�´m the very boy to do it! - Billy Connolly
 
Viscount724
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:39 pm



Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 5):
Another example of a flight that flies close to the North Pole is JFK-HKG.

And EK's nonstop flights DXB-SFO and DXB-LAX. They depart almost due north from DXB and arrive on an almost due south heading, passing close to the North Pole. Recent examples:
http://flightaware.com/live/flight/U...5/history/20090621/0511Z/OMDB/KSFO
http://flightaware.com/live/flight/U...5/history/20090621/0435Z/OMDB/KLAX
 
timz
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Tue Jun 23, 2009 11:59 pm



Quoting EcuadorianMD11 (Reply 18):
Since when are binoculars no good in flat calm weather?

He's referring to the fact that flat calm means no breakers against the iceberg, making it harder to pick out. But yeah, dunno why that makes the binoculars more useless than they would otherwise be.
 
sunrisevalley
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Thu Jun 25, 2009 11:56 pm



Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 19):
And EK's nonstop flights DXB-SFO and DXB-LAX. They depart almost due north from DXB and arrive on an almost due south heading, passing close to the North Pole.

As do most others in the northern hemisphere where the origin and destination points are about 180degrees +- of longitude apart. . The well known ones are JFK/EWR/YYZ-HKG/PEK/PVG. Since there are no alternate airfields it cannot happen over the South Pole. I believe 60 degrees south is the limit for operations in the southern hemisphere except for CHC-McMurdo Sound.
 
EcuadorianMD11
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Sat Jun 27, 2009 12:15 am



Quoting Timz (Reply 20):
He's referring to the fact that flat calm means no breakers against the iceberg, making it harder to pick out. But yeah, dunno why that makes the binoculars more useless than they would otherwise be.

Fair enough.........it´s been yonks since I was in ice, and somehow I don´t look forward to it either!

Quoting SunriseValley (Reply 21):
I believe 60 degrees south is the limit for operations in the southern hemisphere except for CHC-McMurdo Sound.

Okay, so that would be the "aviation-vertex" then, yeah??
What are the rules on alternate airports anyway?
Is there a maximum distance you need to maintain to a decent airfield at any time?

Ecuadorian MD11
A lot of people need to be offended on a regular basis I always felt, and I�´m the very boy to do it! - Billy Connolly
 
sunrisevalley
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Fri Jul 03, 2009 6:45 pm



Quoting EcuadorianMD11 (Reply 22):
Is there a maximum distance you need to maintain to a decent airfield at any time?

This is part of the EDTO/LROPS standards . Read the Australian EDTO standard, it deals at length with the minimum requirements for alternate airfields.
There is good reading on the topic in the following link........

http://www.casa.gov.au/newrules/ops/edto/nfrm0608os.htm
 
EcuadorianMD11
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Sat Jul 04, 2009 4:40 am



Quoting SunriseValley (Reply 23):


This is part of the EDTO/LROPS standards . Read the Australian EDTO standard, it deals at length with the minimum requirements for alternate airfields.
There is good reading on the topic in the following link........

Thanks a bunch!
No sleep tonight I´m afraid..........I´ll go to the bottom of this!

Ecuadorian MD11.
A lot of people need to be offended on a regular basis I always felt, and I�´m the very boy to do it! - Billy Connolly
 
dxing
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RE: Flying Over North & South Poles!

Mon Jul 06, 2009 2:16 am



Quoting Golfradio (Reply 2):
Polar routes are very common. United, Air Canada, Air China all fly polar routes for connecting North America and Asia.

Ahhem...let's not forget CO!

As to polar routes there are 5 of them. Waypoint devid takes you closest to the actual pole. Going from North America or Western Europe you have to apply for a slot, called a TFK, on a daily basis. Avoids jam ups. Coming east is not as difficult. Any operation above 75 degrees latitude is considered polar and there extra rules that go along with flying up that way.

Quoting Wn700driver (Reply 15):
Just out of curiosity, what is done to counter the potential issues regarding solar storms?

http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/SWN/index.html

Quoting Borism (Reply 17):
Apparently polar route flight planners take space weather into account as well

Check it daily, check it often. Same with volcanoes as there are a fair amount of them in Russia and Alaska that can cause problems.
Warm winds blowing, heating blue skies, a road that goes forever, I'm going to Texas!

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