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Air Baltic BT686 Madrid - Riga odd flight route

Mon Oct 14, 2019 6:09 pm

I just noticed this aircraft on Flightradar24. It's flying Madrid - Riga, but instead of the shortest route it flew all the way north over London and then turned east. Currently overflying the Netherlands. Shortest route would take it over the French - German border near Strasbourg, so London is way off.

Any idea why?

By the way, here's the link:
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Re: Air Baltic BT686 Madrid - Riga odd flight route

Mon Oct 14, 2019 6:20 pm

Restrictions due to high traffic in the airspace over France and Germany is a possibility. I've seen some flights from Mainland Portugal, the Azores and the Canary Islands to Scandinavia and Finland taking a similar route
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Re: Air Baltic BT686 Madrid - Riga odd flight route

Mon Oct 14, 2019 9:58 pm

It's not that unusual to see aircraft routing over London that you wouldn't expect up here (like the routing you show for BT686).
Now, as to why that is? I have no idea :-)
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Re: Air Baltic BT686 Madrid - Riga odd flight route

Tue Oct 15, 2019 5:41 am

Happens quite often, when the French ATC goes on strike (again :) ) for instance.
Not sure of the reason this time though.
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Re: Air Baltic BT686 Madrid - Riga odd flight route

Tue Oct 15, 2019 7:03 am

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Re: Air Baltic BT686 Madrid - Riga odd flight route

Tue Oct 15, 2019 7:59 am

The route structure doesn't allow any routing between Paris and Lyon/Switzerland anyways. That flight would either have to be routed North of Paris and then over Belgium/Germany, or across Switzerland. So London is not that much of a detour anymore...

Then, as runway23 explained, Europe's different air navigation service providers/ANSPs work in coordination under NMOC and can ask each other to reroute some flows. This is done to avoid unexpected change of flows when unilaterally enforcing CTOTs through regulations.

When regulation are enforced (yes, strikes do slash ATC capacity but they aren't the only reason), some airline companies' CFSPs (computerised flightplan service providers) come up with really weird routes - much more than this one. Sometimes they prefer to add a couple hundred NM than take a 30min delay. ATC doesn't like weird routings because it causes extra workload due to unexpected turns / huge FL deviation. So we ANSPs take measures and close/force some route segements for specific traffic flows through RAD (route availability document). So the airspace structure keeps getting more and more complex, and sometimes event CFSPs have trouble finding a route that complies with all the restrictions.

Here, it could be anything: favourable or least unfavourable winds, NMOC scenarios to divert flows, regulation dodging, or just somebody in an office who was rushed to find a RAD-compliant route and couldn't come up with the shorter one.
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Re: Air Baltic BT686 Madrid - Riga odd flight route

Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:28 am

French airspace is run in a grid-like way, with airways going either north-south or east-west, with few going across. That is why flights from southern France to Scandinavia usually fly east to Italy before turning north. In my experience French ATC is also very picky about routings they will allow.
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Re: Air Baltic BT686 Madrid - Riga odd flight route

Sat Oct 26, 2019 1:32 pm

icna05e wrote: could be anything: favourable or least unfavourable winds...

I was, a few years back, on a night flight BGI-LGW that routed up to the area of St Johns before turning east and riding the travelator across to the UK (it was winter). The entire trip north had me thinking we'd be badly late. In the end we were 15 minutes ahead of schedule when we landed. I was impressed to see the algorithm working so well!

The only strike-bound airspace I met was on FR from STN-PSA, when we were allowed over France but only below FL180, so not in the UIR. The routing was changed to get us into German airspace sooner, after which we were no longer restricted, but that was barely a route change, although crossing the channel at FL150 felt odd.

Thanks for the insights into how these things are organised.

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