What Makes Planes Always Take “The Longer Way”?

We all have experienced getting bored on our flights, trying to pass the time on board, and playing with our stuff, you might think of looking up at the inflight map, and see that the determined route for the plane seems to be always chosen curved and long – apparently on purpose! In this article, we will elucidate the reasons behind the long routes planes take.

Credits: gisgeography.com

The earth’s curvature and the 2D map

Our Earth has a sphere shape, well, not a perfect sphere, but this not-perfect sphere shape makes the circumference of the Earth a lot further around the equator than it is at higher or lower latitudes.

Whilst we usually deal with the 2D map we might forget the truth that circles become narrower and shorter in length when we get near towards the poles.

That means curving routes towards the poles is a shorter distance than flying in a straight line as we expect to see on a 2D map, which again is considered more efficient.

Credits: gis.stackexchange.com

What are other considerations to determine a flight path?

Well, curved routes are better when it comes to large international flights, but this is not the only case planes purposely take the curved route, and there are other considerations that determine the curved route for a flight.

Domestic aviation

At peak times, there are an average of 5000 airplanes flying at the same moment in most countries. At high altitudes planes must be separated by 2000 feet vertically and 1000 for lower altitudes, which requires planes to take zig-zag routes as previously mapped for the flight due to the other planes flights at the same time. Also, flight paths can even change during flight due to this rule and other weather-related reasons.

Some areas are not allowed to be flown over

This reason is not about safety conditions as the other ones, but it also forces aircraft to take specific routes as there are many restricted areas where flying over is not allowed.

Some of these places are The White House, Buckingham Palace, Al-Kaaba in Mecca, the Taj Mahal, and also Disneyland!


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