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Transatlantic Route

Thu Sep 21, 2000 12:56 am

Could someone describe the flight path of a flight from the southeastern United States to Europe (i.e. ATL-FRA)? Thanks for the help.
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Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2000 9:21 am

RE: Transatlantic Route

Thu Sep 21, 2000 5:47 am

I think that flights from the southeastern U.S. would either use one of the established North Atlantic Tracks from eastern Canada or they may fly a random track from the southeastern U.S. depending on weather. If they were flying on one of the regular tracks hey would depart their airport and head up to Canada and then claered to one of the coastal fixes where they would pick up the assigned North Atlantic Track. From there they would fly across the ocean making their position reports to Gander every 10 degrees. When they reach 30 west they would start making the position reports to Shanwick. The main difference with these two types of tracks would be that if they were flying the random track they may be the only plane flying that route. If they were flying on one of the established tracks there would be many other jets flying the same route seperated by 10 minutes flying time and 1000 feet vertically. That is really the best answer I can give, maybe someone knows more.
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RE: Transatlantic Route

Fri Sep 22, 2000 1:38 am

Flights from the southeastern US indeed use basicly the established North Atlantic Tracks originating in Eastern Canada.

E.g. Swissair flight SR121 ATL-ZRH would fly up north before getting into one of the tracks and reporting to either Gander or Shanwick as described above. Then, after reaching the Irish/Scottish coastline, are taken into european airspace.

However, due to weather conditions or flight-specific reasons, a request for a random track may be made. LTU, for instance, almost always uses a random track on its flights from Miami into Germany, as the A330-300 they're using on the route is on the edge of its range, and they try to be as economical as possible on fuel consumption.
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RE: Transatlantic Route

Fri Sep 22, 2000 4:33 am

Flew Delta Atlanta-Athens two weeks ago. I was surprised at how long we were able to see the US east coast outbound (I had assumed that a great circle route would be used to minimize fuel consumption). Couldn't see the landmasses since night had fallen, so I wasn't sure where we departed land entirely.

Later in the flight (over Italy) they BRIEFLY showed the flight tracking screens in the main cabin, and it looked (to my surprise) like we'd flown a smooth great circle-type route (continuous curvature on the screen), finally leaving North America behind around Long Island. The flight appeared to have made landfall over France.

Our airplane was an MD-11; does ETOPS limit twinjets to more northerly tracks?

Our return flight to JFK (a 767) took a more northerly route (Italy-Germany-UK).
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Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2000 5:38 am

RE: Transatlantic Route

Fri Sep 22, 2000 4:41 am

Just plotted the ATL-ATH great circle route on Karl Swartz's site and it looks pretty close to the flight path as I remember it.
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Joined: Mon May 24, 1999 5:53 am

RE: Transatlantic Route

Sun Sep 24, 2000 9:51 pm

I have been listening to transatlantic HF since 1958 on a regular basis and have flown to the South Eastern US many times.

The routes take into account the prevailing winds, time from an airport for twin engined ETOPS, other traffic and, on eastbound legs, any curfews on jet traffic prior to a given time in the morning at European airports.

A great circle route, whilst the shortest distance between two points on the globe is not necessarily the fastest, or most economical. The weather patterns and accompanying winds, plus the position of the jetstream on any given day will determine the preferred route requested.

ATC will then determine how the route and the requested flight level will work out in respect of other traffic.

So, from the S E USA, a random track may seem to be the quickest route on a map, but traffic off the east coast is very heavy and random tracks cutting across the main flow can be a pain, not only for he controllers but also for the crew as track and height deviations become a feature at certain times of day. As these have to be accomplished using HF, where the request is made via a radio operator to the control centre and then back again the same way, the process is tedious and slow.

The normal way to go is to travel roughly north until the start of the most useful southerly eastbound track available is intercepted and to use this until the Scottish, Shannon or Brest FIRs are reached.

Most Italian traffic I hear comes up as far as 49N. Frankfurt traffic frequently uses the same routings as London traffic at around 52N/53N.

Atlanta and Miami to Frankfurt flights have been heard as far North as 55N when the speed of the upper winds/jetstream makes the distance factor insignificant over the time gained/lower fuel burn achieved

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