Cross-polar routes

Cross-polar routes

by Aviationer || Category: Airlines, Amazing stuff

Since 2001, when Russia opened their airspace borders, some airlines thought that flying across the north pole would be much faster, like a shortcut. As a matter of fact, they got right. You can almost save up to 4 hours of flight, flying through the north pole instead of the regular routes.

These regular routes are the PACOTS (Pacific Organized Track System) going from the U.S. west coast to Japan and Honolulu. These are a set of predefined routes (it works like NAT routes), that start within US airspace (a fix) and they finish within Japan airspace (another fix). Between them, there’s just some waypoints defined with coordinates (there are no navaids to define them). So, an airplane departing from JFK had to go to the west coast and then, get en-route in these tracks.

United Airlines, Continental and other Japanese airlines started operating routes through the north pole. Then, they would save time, fuel and consequently money. But it’s not that easy. We all know that in the north pole it’s kinda cold, so it’s pretty likely that kerosene solidify. Nevertheless you can also descend to a lower altitude and modify your original route.

In addition, because of the earth’s magnetic field shape, the cosmic rays are much intense in that area. Therefore, the radiation exposure seems to be greater than the normal quantity. Some expert says that the total radiation exposure up there could be equal to 3 X-ray taken. Here you can appreciate a cross-polar route from JFK to Beijing (Japan) at Great Circle Mapper.

ATC services are not available, since we have no radar coverage. To sum up, it’s really an amazing adventure flying this kind of routes. Pilots must have good skills, and a big coat!

Cross-polar route

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