February 6, 2008 12:01 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to learn more about airline flight paths around the world. Does this information exist on the web?

I do a lot of flying, mostly from Vancouver to Japan, or from Vancouver to different parts of British Columbia. I see a lot of mountains, I take a lot of photos, and I'd like to identify what I'm looking at. As well, I'd like to identify overflights from where I live, too. Just for fun.

Is there an online resource that maps out flight routes? In international airspace, can pilots fly anywhere they want? I noticed on a flight back to Vancouver from Japan that, according to the aircraft GPS, we flew a more southerly route, presumably to catch the jet stream (we made it back in just 7.5 hours, compared to 11 hours traveling to Japan).

Any help would be welcome.
posted by KokuRyu to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I wondered about that same things some months ago after a flying spree and downloaded this air traffic control presentations from the Aeronautics Graduate School at MIT open courseware but havent got round to reading the best I can do is send you the link!
posted by lucia__is__dada at 12:14 PM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

(not that it has the routes but has lots of info on flying patterns and rules)
posted by lucia__is__dada at 12:16 PM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

One of the best places to start looking (and asking questions) is
posted by blue_beetle at 12:17 PM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

You might want to browse around at some of the intro books over at Sporty's Pilot Shop. Most of them are technical books designed for pilots and pilot wannabees but you might find something that has the information you're looking for.

I've also heard good reviews for this book, though it focuses on American routes.
posted by bondcliff at 12:23 PM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, Sporty's is a good place to buy charts for various air routes. I had a ball flying into Boston once with a VFR chart spread out before me, though that was pre-9/11. They might frown on that these days.
posted by bondcliff at 12:25 PM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I used to play with the gMaps mashup

These don't seem to be extremely accurate but that may just be when the data is entered as far as the plane's position (e.g. it draws a straight line from point to point rather than up-to-the-second which would create more over a curve).

The flight data is mined from which therefore might yield some results with some digging.
posted by travis vocino at 12:29 PM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

You can see the actual routes flown over the last few days at FlightAware. It can be interesting to look at the variation of paths and actual flight duration over just a week and can definitely use it to see exactly where you flew over, but I don't know how easy it would be to track overflights with it.
posted by Schismatic at 12:36 PM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Great Circle Mapper will show you great circle routes between airports, although of course actual paths will deviate from this, especially easterly paths.
posted by grouse at 1:14 PM on February 6, 2008

Best answer: For trans-Atlantic, the routes are called the North Atlantic Tracks. Kind of like a multi-lane air highway between the Northeast and Europe. I don't know if something similar exists on the Pacific side.
posted by smackfu at 1:17 PM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all awesome links (the Great Circle Mapper) is particularly cool, but smackfu provided me a personal Rosetta Stone: the term "track". Using this keyword, I was able to Google and find info about the Pacific Organized Track System. So I'll do some research.

But these are all really cool links.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:41 PM on February 6, 2008

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