Do Airplanes Fly Directly Over the Pacific Ocean? 

Do Airplanes Fly Directly Over the Pacific Ocean? 

Anyone who has traveled to locations in the Pacific knows that there are very rarely flights that fly over the entire ocean. Rather, they choose curved routes that fly over larger bodies of land. If you are interested in becoming a flight dispatcher, you are most likely curious about the best way to plan a flight from one end of the Pacific Ocean to the other. In the following article, Sheffield School of Aeronautics, an experienced flight dispatcher school, will detail some of the reasons why you will need special consideration when planning a flight of this caliber. Do airplanes fly over the Pacific Ocean? Continue reading below for more information. 

Why Don’t Some Airplanes Fly Over the Pacific Ocean? 

The Pacific Ocean is a massive body of water that will require an extremely large amount of fuel to fly across. Rather than flying directly across the Pacific Ocean, most commercial flights take curved routes because they are actually shorter than shooting straight across a distance. This may sound counterintuitive, but since the Earth is spherical, a straight line is not necessarily the shortest distance between two points. Inclement weather and winds may also affect selected minimum cost routes.

Another reason that airplanes may choose to take curved routes is that they are safer and more fuel efficient than a straight line. By taking a curved route that covers more land than a straight line, or by taking a route within usually 2-3 hours from a coastal airport (one form of Extended Range Operations – ETOPS), there will be more opportunities for emergency landings should there be a need for one. Lastly, if an airplane were to, unfortunately, crash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it would take an extremely extensive search and rescue mission to find the airplane. 

Some Exceptions: Flying Westbound from the U.S. to Australia/New Zealand? 

Australia is one of the most popular locations for people flying across the Pacific. Australia is extremely far from the nearest location in the United States. This means that an airplane will spend a longer amount of time flying over water. Hazardous weather conditions and larger weather systems can occur over bodies of water. These include thunderstorms, which are extremely hazardous to flights. So, there can be cases in which airlines may look to spend as little time as possible flying over water or apply ETOPS. Another reason that planes may not fly directly west to Australia is that airlines look to cut fueling costs by taking more fuel stops in airports across the different airports in Asia. There are few airplanes that could handle a transpacific flight, but a flight of this caliber usually lasts between 11 to 12 hours. 

However, unless a series of factors seriously affect westbound Pacific flight to Australia or New Zealand, etc.. airplanes generally fly from the U.S. across the Pacific to Australia because it usually saves time and fuel, and is considered safe, especially with modern aircraft. 

Other exceptions include flying over the Pacific when the departure and destination are further north in latitude, which may reduce distance and/or take advantage of a more favorable overall cruise wind component. For ETOPS flights, en route alternate airport availability may also affect decision-making as well regarding flying across the Pacific

More About Sheffield School of Aeronautics

Interested in a flight dispatch course? Sheffield School of Aeronautics is an experienced airline dispatcher school that is dedicated to helping students and prospective FAA dispatchers with our wide collection of courses and resources. Aside from answering questions like “Do airplanes fly directly over the Pacific Ocean?” we make sure to provide a comprehensive list of everything that a student may need to know. We offer international flight planning and flight weather planning courses, among many others. Contact us today to discover what makes us one of the most sought-after aircraft dispatching schools in the nation. 

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