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Route Of Transatlantic Flights

Sun May 16, 2004 7:59 pm

I have noticed that most flights from London to the USA fly far north of the great circle route. Even flights to Toronto fly over Greenland occasionally. If this to avoid the jet stream running south of the chosen route, does that mean that east bound flights fly further south to get onto the jet stream?

Is there a web site (other the great circle website) that shows typical transatlantic routes!

[Edited 2004-05-16 13:00:25]
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RE: Route Of Transatlantic Flights

Sun May 16, 2004 8:08 pm

don't know about another website but the reason is exactly, as you already guessed, the jetstream.
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RE: Route Of Transatlantic Flights

Sun May 16, 2004 8:10 pm

If you live towards the west coast of the UK, you might be able to hear the oceanic clearance given (using a scanner). From that you can determine the routing taken. I live in west Wiltshire and can hear them from here. Somebody here will know the frequency(ies)....?

Geoff M.
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RE: Route Of Transatlantic Flights

Sun May 16, 2004 8:18 pm

The great circle website shows the shortest distance between the points.

Get a globe and stretch an elastic band from london to new york. You will see that because of the curvature of the earth the shortest route will as you say "bend" northwards.

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RE: Route Of Transatlantic Flights

Sun May 16, 2004 8:35 pm


information about the NAT (North Atlantic Tracks) can be found on this website. Current NATs in use can be found here. It might also be interesting for you to have a look at the Jeppesen North Atlantic Plotting Chart (available on their homepage for 30 €).

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RE: Route Of Transatlantic Flights

Sun May 16, 2004 9:39 pm

Well the photo below shows the route I took on a recent flight from Newark to London Heathrow with British Airways as shown on the moving map.

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RE: Route Of Transatlantic Flights

Sun May 16, 2004 10:28 pm

The link to the current tracks (ZSSNC) didn't work for me. But I found it through the 1st link:

Geoff M.
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RE: Route Of Transatlantic Flights

Mon May 17, 2004 7:28 am


Try this website, key in 2 airport codes like LHR and JFK and off you go!

It shows the great circle routes between any 2 airports in the world. However I agree with you, the UK to USA flights I have been on fly the great circle route while USA to UK do not. This is because the jet stream flows USA to UK further to the south. When I once flew LHR-SFO we set off almost due north and out over the Outer Hebredies whilst on the return we flew over Southern Ireland and Bristol. I had a very quick run once JFK to MAN courtesy of the jet stream, we were airborne for only 5h 25m
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RE: Route Of Transatlantic Flights

Mon May 17, 2004 7:44 am

I think it really depends on partially on weather but more the route. I've flown between LAX/SFO/SEA and LHR, and on the way to UK, each time we went up over northern Canada near Churchill, Manitoba (polar bear capital of the world, by the way) across Baffin Island and the southern tip of Greenland, and then south towards MAN and into LHR. I've experienced the same leaving LHR going to SFO/LAX. While it's great circle, that route can also experience tremendous headwinds at times, and one LHR-SFO flight I was on in '91, we had to divert to SEA for fuel. I sometimes follow the LH PDX-AB) (FRA / FRF / EDDF), Germany">FRA flight and the SK SEA-CPH flights on, and they always flies very far north over Canada and Greenland.

Contrastly, I've flown between LHR and MAD and IAD, and haven't gone nearly that far north in both directions. I imagine the same will hold true when I fly IAD-AB) (FRA / FRF / EDDF), Germany">FRA in July and then LHR-ORD on the way home.
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RE: Route Of Transatlantic Flights

Mon May 17, 2004 9:28 pm

It depends on weather, but also on traffic. IIRC, there are over 1000 planes crossing the North Atlantic every day, so you have to spread them out a little, especially at the entry and exit points.
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