Great Circle Route over the pole cleared for Branson’s Virgin Air

This will shave six hours off a flight from London to Fiji, which had to either stop in Los Angeles or Seoul en-route.

There’s a good side and a bad side to this.

The good side: Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people traveling the Virgin Air (and other airlines) great circle route from London to Hawaii or Fiji will be able to see that the North polar ice cap has not melted away as some would believe have forecast.

The bad side: Sir Richard Branson, who has paired up with Al Gore in the past as a global eco champion, may take a hit from having planes spew jet exhaust in what some people call a highly sensitive region. I wonder if an EIR had to be filed for stratospheric effects? From The Independent:

Airlines cleared to use Santa’s short-cut

New destinations and shorter journey times on way after North Pole route is approved for passenger jets.

Hard-pressed airlines have been handed the perfect Christmas present: permission to fly twin-jet aircraft over the North Pole, saving millions on fuel costs, opening up new destinations and reducing damage to the environment.

Sir Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic, told The Independent: “This new development really does open up a whole new world and will allow us to take our Dreamliners to more exciting and exotic places. Our new fleet of 787s could well be flying to Honolulu or even Fiji one day.” Fiji straddles the 180-degree line of latitude, and the most direct track passes directly over the North Pole – though because of the distance, over 10,000 miles, the payload would need to be restricted. The new policy could also make no-non-stop routes to Tahiti in the South Pacific and Anchorage in Alaska viable.

And Sir Richard Branson looked forward to new sightseeing opportunities: “Apart from the stunning destinations on arrival, the Arctic scenery will be just amazing on the way.”

================================================================

I look forward to all those tourist photos and video from the window seats saying;

“Gosh, look at all that ice, I thought the North Pole had melted according to the Guardian!”

Full story at The Independent

h/t to Dr. Ryan Maue

Addendum: Since some people haven’t clicked through the link to the article, they get the mistaken impression this is “new”. It’s only new for two engine jets, of which Branson has many. Four engine jets have been making great circle routes for years but two engine jets have been limited by ETOP rules related to an engine failing and distance to nearest airport. – Anthony

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137 Responses to Great Circle Route over the pole cleared for Branson’s Virgin Air

  1. Brian H says:

    Ohno! The soot from Branson’s jet exhaust will fall on the Arctic ice and melt it even faster!

    Or maybe not.

  2. Jeff Alberts says:

    And if they have to ditch or something, all those people will be dead, even if they survive the emergency landing.

  3. dtbronzich says:

    Maybe he could run his jets on coal………

  4. Cementafriend says:

    Is this new? I have flown over the pole from Coepenhaven (I think that is how the Danish spell it) to Tokyo. Just PR I reckon. Branson is good at that.

  5. Philip Bradley says:

    From Wikipedia,

    Contrails, by affecting the Earth’s radiation balance, act as a radiative forcing. Studies have found that contrails trap outgoing longwave radiation emitted by the Earth and atmosphere (positive radiative forcing) at a greater rate than they reflect incoming solar radiation (negative radiative forcing). Global radiative forcing has been calculated from the reanalysis data, climatological models and radiative transfer codes. It is estimated to amount of 0.012 W/m2 for 2005, with an uncertainty range of 0.005 to 0.0026 W/m2, and with a low level of scientific understanding.[4] Therefore, the overall net effect of contrails is positive, i.e. a warming effect.[5] However, the effect varies daily and annually, and overall the magnitude of the forcing is not well known: globally (for 1992 air traffic conditions), values range from 3.5 mW/m2 to 17 mW/m2. Other studies have determined that night flights are mostly responsible for the warming effect: while accounting for only 25% of daily air traffic, they contribute 60 to 80% of contrail radiative forcing. Similarly, winter flights account for only 22% of annual air traffic, but contribute half of the annual mean radiative forcing.

    More Arctic warming.

  6. Richard G says:

    How about a route over the south pole to NZ?

  7. Skiphil says:

    a big enviro-weenie like Branson should not be allowed to fly jets anywhere near the Arctic Circle

    not saying there is a real problem with it, simply that Branson deserves to be tied up in environmental reviews for a decade or more….

  8. Louise says:

    By shortening the duration of the flight there will be a net reduction in greenhouse gases emitted. A win-win, what’s the problem?

  9. kbray in california says:

    Virgin could hire pole dancers as entertainment…
    Virgin Pole Dancers.

  10. John F. Hultquist says:

    Fiji straddles the 180-degree line of latitude

    longitude
    ————————————————

    The really funny line is “the Arctic scenery will be just amazing on the way. ” [Richard Branson]

    They must be flying these at about 7,000 feet:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairchild_Hiller_FH-227

  11. kbray in california says:

    What does the plane do if there is a magnetic pole reversal ?
    Fly in the other direction ?
    Stop dancing ?

  12. Alex Cull says:

    Looking forward to travelling in one of Sir Richard’s Boeing 787s from Heathrow to Hawaii one day, for a nice break from wintry England (and being able to admire the polar scenery from my window seat, en route.)

    Here’s to aviation, innovation and enterprise, and hoping they make a full recovery from the attack of the green meanies!

    Also Merry Xmas to all at WUWT, and here’s to an excellent and interesting 2012!

  13. Me says:

    Anyone who lives that far north has to burn something to survive so it’s no big deal. Greens are hypocrits as usual.

  14. EO Peter says:

    Was under impression that Mount Erebus disaster put an end to “civilian” flight over Antartica due to the difficult and truly horrific conditions for those involved in the recovery operation.
    I know this is North Pole but still IMHO a difficult place, especially if Murphy’s Law kick in!

  15. crosspatch says:

    I see some polar flights:

    I also read there are many cargo flights over the pole, too.

  16. Ian W says:

    As Cementafriend states this is not new the ‘polar routes’ are flown by all sorts of aircraft mainly three or four engined such as Boeing 747 and Airbus A340. However, there are strict rules for twin engined aircraft flying over ocean areas, the poles and Siberia where aircraft are more than 60 minutes from a suitable diversion airport. These rules are known as the Extended Twin engine Operations (ETOPS) rules. Aircraft are tested to see how far they can fly if one of their two engines fail and that limits the types of routes that they can operate. See http://www.caa.co.uk/application.aspx?catid=33&pagetype=65&appid=11&mode=detail&id=3677

    The Boeing 787 is a new aircraft and presumably Virgin Atlantic has gone through the ETOPS approval procedure for their new route. The 787 has just completed a fastest ever in class flight East around the world from Seattle in which one leg was Seattle to Dhakar, Bangladesh a range record for the class but also using 20% less fuel than other aircraft in the class. See http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/boeing-787-dreamliner-sets-speed-distance-records-135252008.html . The 787 is one of a growing set of aircraft types that can literally fly from anywhere on the globe to anywhere – direct.

    Philip Bradley says:
    December 23, 2011 at 11:15 pm
    From Wikipedia,
    Contrails, by affecting the Earth’s radiation balance, act as a radiative forcing. Studies have found that contrails trap outgoing longwave radiation emitted by the Earth and atmosphere (positive radiative forcing) at a greater rate than they reflect incoming solar radiation (negative radiative forcing).

    This is an old chestnut that is rolled out by warmists…

    Contrails are caused when the water vapor from the jet exhaust condenses and then freezes into ice-crystals in the upper atmosphere.
    * If the humidity is low the exhaust water vapor does not condense and remains as a vapor (the normal case)
    * If the atmosphere the aircraft is flying in is close to saturated then contrails may form as the exhaust water vapor forms ice crystals and then the ice crystals sublimate back into water vapor – these are the non-persistent contrails.
    * If the atmosphere is saturated – 100% humidity – then the exhaust water vapor freezes into ice crystals and persistent contrails will form
    * If the atmosphere is super-saturated (quite common) then persistent contrails will form and the contrails may trigger the formation of cirrus.

    Aircraft are normally in flight above you almost everywhere in the world – but contrails are not always formed as contrails (as with any clouds) _only_ occur in layers of the atmosphere where the humidity is close to 100% or more. Water vapor is far more effective at trapping infra-red than CO2, yet none of the research studies appear to have carried out any ‘control’ for the ‘radiative forcing effect’ of water vapor that is in the layer of atmosphere before any contrails form. Few take account of the albedo increase (negative forcing) caused by persistent contrails but this is difficult to measure as they are narrow and the satellites cannot discriminate them. The much quoted NASA Langley paper on temperatures after 9/11 when no aircraft were flying claimed a temperature drop due to no contrails and the flying ban – yet did not account for the dome of high-pressure and very dry air over the eastern USA in the days they measured (remember how clear the sky was in the reports of 9/11).

  17. Otter says:

    Perhaps he should rename to ‘Northwest Passage Air.’

    The way history can get garbled over time, future people may blame him for the ‘permanent’ melting open of the Northwest passage!

  18. Mindbuilder says:

    This is probably not new permission to fly over the pole, but rather new permission to fly twin engine jets, or this particular model of jet over the pole. For many years the regulations required at least three engines to fly far over the ocean. After decades of high reliability, they finally started to let twin jets fly over the oceans in the 80′s. They may have still been restricted from polar flights though. It is less expensive to maintain two large engines than three or four medium size ones, so airlines much prefer twins.

  19. M.A.Vukcevic says:

    There are indeed dangers considering that at the poles stratosphere is as low as 9km (30,000ft) well below airlines cruising height.
    http://www-das.uwyo.edu/~geerts/cwx/notes/chap01/trop_height1.gif

  20. Braddles says:

    Purest PR BS. Commercial flights have been flying over the high Arctic since the 1960s, and various airlines fly between east coast USA and China nonstop. American Airlines has daily nonstop flights from Chicago to Shanghai which pass over or very close to the pole.

  21. david says:

    No one on the plane will comment about how much ice there is! In Winter it is pitch black up there. Nap, catch a movie and pass some long hours in the dark, that is all.

  22. oldseadog says:

    Like cementafriend I have flown over the N. Pole. At the time of the Tokio Olympics, (northern summer 1964?), I flew SAS from Tokio to Copenhagen with a refuelling stop in Anchorage; the route went that way because you couldn’t fly over USSR at that time, and aircraft at that time didn’t have the range available now.
    The scenery was indeed spectacular and there were open leads when, according to the announcement from the flight deck, we were just a few miles from 90N.

    I guess crash-landing in mid-atlantic or mid-icefield would have much the same end result.

  23. Mike Bromley the Part-time Kurd says:

    Rich idiots. Aside from the inane “latitude” misnomer. Oh look at me. World-saving champion. I think we should live in the dark ages, and I’ll be flying my Dreamliner around to check up on you, so no cheating! I’ll poke my buddy Rajendra in the ribs, and we can all have a belly laugh! Really! Enjoy that blinding white spectacular scenery, Branso, your sooty exhaust should help the albedo.

  24. Sleepalot says:

    Are those blue lines “great circle routes”? They don’t look it, to me.

  25. rossshiremannie says:

    Hmmmp ! and what do they expect to see in the dark? – Black Ice ?

  26. John Marshall says:

    Just shows the reliability of aero-engines today. In fact total aircraft reliability compared to my time in the RAF in the 60′s/70′s.

  27. TP says:

    The article is talking about ETOPS approval (Extended Two engine Operations). I operate over the pole all the time in a 747-400. 3 and 4 engine aircraft operate under a different set of operating rules due to their ability to lose and engine and still get to an extended alternate airport. Two engine aircraft operating under ETOPS regs (especially passenger ops) have to able to reach an alternate airport in 60, 129, or 180 minutes – 60/120/180 ETOPS – from engine failure and that airport has to have facilities that can handle all your passengers. That invalidates most military and Siberian airports. Operating the 787 under 180 or 210 ETOPS allows Virgin to reach acceptable alternates – probably Fairbanks. It’s not really about an EIS, it’s simply operating a new aircraft type under a very aggressive version of existing regulations.

  28. oldseadog says:

    I guess I went off at half cock.
    I’ve just read the whole newspaper article and this is a new regulation for TWIN engined aircraft.
    3 and 4 engined ones have been using the route for ages. Its all to do with how far you can fly with one engine out of action.

  29. Billy Liar says:

    Philip Bradley says:
    December 23, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Contrail at the North Pole:

    http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/npole/2011/images/noaa2-2011-0722-095637.jpg

  30. TP says:

    KBray-
    We operate north of 78 degrees north latitude using grid navigation. The Flight Managemet Computer uses alternate (grid) navigation and doesn’t follow compass headings. Actually, the compass can flip back and forth several times over a several hundred mile segment. More fun than that is that GPS is useless above about N84 – there is a sizable hole in coverage near the poles. Modern FMC equipped aircraft have to revert to Inertial Navigation, which effectively dumbs down the aircraft by about 30 years. Nonetheless, operating in Polar regions is surprisingly uneventful after being trained in the unique issues it presents. And Branson is right – the view is amazing. The best scenery I’ve seen anywhere in the world was north of Thule, Greenland a few days after summer solstice.

  31. Roger Longstaff says:

    Huh – that’s nothing. For something new try:

    http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/lapcat_facts.html

    (We had to fly over the north pole to avoid breaking every window along the way with a sonic boom!).

    Happy Christmas to all!

  32. David, UK says:

    Louise says:
    December 23, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    By shortening the duration of the flight there will be a net reduction in greenhouse gases emitted. A win-win, what’s the problem?

    No problem for me either. But it would be a problem for touchy-feely AGW believers if they actually thought for a change. After all, if you actually bother to read what Branson is saying, you will see that this venture is not designed to cut down flight times, but rather is designed to open up routes and destinations hitherto unattainable: “This new development really does open up a whole new world and will allow us to take our Dreamliners to more exciting and exotic places.” Greens of course will love this regardless, because it is wonderful propaganda, to be lapped up by the media, missing the obvious irony as indeed they always do, as indeed you just did. That’s why you’re a Green: you’re naive. You’ll get wise with time, don’t worry. Until that time, keep lapping it up.

  33. mikemUK says:

    We must remember that saving the earth is a Branson hobby, just like ballooning.

    This, however is business!

    Happy Christmas to one and all.

  34. Cold Englishman says:

    Yes, he really is good at PR, but he failed to secure the UK Lottery franchise, mainly because of his perceived dishonesty. He probably would have made a good job of it, but his history is not helpful– he devised an illicit pseudo-export scam that allowed him to evade the tax payments on his merchandise. For a time he eluded the authorities but was eventually brought to justice and to jail. It cost him (and his mother) $45,000 in bail to secure his freedom.

    http://www.answers.com/topic/richard-branson

  35. steveta_uk says:

    Cementafriend, I think your memory is playing tricks – the Denmark-Japan route is very similar to the UK-Korea route in the map.

    I’ve done London-Tokyo, the Siberian scenery is amazing in places, and the north was totally frozen (in spring).

    But some way from the pole.

  36. ferdinand says:

    Philip Bradley has not read Lindzen and Choi.

  37. Carsten Arnholm says:

    Cementafriend says:
    December 23, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Is this new? I have flown over the pole from Coepenhaven (I think that is how the Danish spell it) to Tokyo. Just PR I reckon. Branson is good at that.

    Try København instead :-)

    Merry Christmas!

  38. Eimear says:

    The other bad side is if the aircraft develops problems it will be far from help.

    Happy Holidays to All.

  39. UK Sceptic says:

    Call me cynical but there may be more to this than saving time and the cost of fuel. Branson actively turns cartwheels to not pay tax if he can help it. Has Branson effectively created a loophole that will reduce the cost of those thrice damned EU flight surcharges on long haul flights? That his green credentials are taking a back seat to his wallet is a mere detail. He is a busy and important man after all and therefore not subject the the rules he would level on the rest of us. That is the nature of this particular beast.

    What I actually think of the creature would not be appropriate for this site.

  40. SandyInDerby says:

    rossshiremannie says:
    December 24, 2011 at 1:44 am

    Hmmmp ! and what do they expect to see in the dark? – Black Ice ?

    Land of the midnight sun? Approx 6 months of the year it’s permanent daylight at the north pole; Rest of the year permanent night. So the time of day irrelevent, it’s seasonal.

  41. ‘This is the tower here, whats your heading Beardy One’
    ‘Beardy One here, heading due south’
    ‘Ok beardy One, alter course to 90 degrees. Confirm your heading’
    ‘Beardy One here, heading due south’
    ‘Ok beardy One, alter course ANOTHER 90 degrees. Confirm your heading’
    ‘Beardy One here, heading due south’

    Ait traffic controller to assistant ‘I think dicks been at the whacky baccy again’

  42. Richard111 says:

    More wierd and wonderful talk about contrails and positive forcings and negative forcings whatever the hell they are. Have you ever seen a sky with 100% coverage of contrails? Well, I am pretty sure you have seen a sky with 100% cloud cover. I know from personal experience that 100% cloud cover certainly stops the surface getting colder. You might notice a small increase in temperature if the cloud appears late after an early clear night but that is simply surface heat.
    So why should a few contrails have any more effect on local climate than a few clouds?
    I live under an airline freeway known as Green1 and have never noticed any soot. What I have noticed is that my solar oven stops heating if a contrail moves between it and the sun. It can get so bad that I have to abandon outdoor cooking. Remember the aftermath of 911.

  43. R Barker says:

    In the case of light twin engine aircraft, it is said that the remaining engine will always get you to the crash site. ;<))

  44. arguethefacts says:

    …to see that the North polar ice cap has not melted away as some would believe.

    What a stupid sentence. Name one person who says the North polar ice cap has melted away? This is terrible writing. The North Polar ice cap is melting (provable, just look at satellite shots for 2011 and compare them with 1970), but no one says they’ve melted. Please correct this sentence. Seems you were just trying to take a political swipe at environmentalists using a straw dog argument.

    REPLY: Gladly, I’ll name three.

    Al Gore (on his current TV website) and NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally

    http://current.com/green/88653981_polar-ice-gone-by-2012.htm

    Mark “death Spiral” Serreze from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22203980/ns/us_news-environment/t/rate-ice-melt-shocks-warming-experts/#.TvX25VbnuuM

    Though since you got your panties in a twist, I edited the text to add “have forecast”. The routes won’t start until 2012, and that’s what I was saying in the sentence. Since you “arguethefacts” I presume now you’ll send a letter to Al Gore, Zwally, and Serreze telling them they are stupid for believing this? If you do, please send a copy to WUWT and we’ll gladly post it.- Anthony

  45. Confused says:

    But if he flies straight over the North Pole, won’t the Earth be turning underneath him, so that when he comes down, it won’t be Fiji he lands at, but somewhere like Brazil or Peru ?

  46. Larry Fields says:

    One silver lining for passengers whose aircraft needs to make an emergency landing on the dwindling Arctic snowpack: They won’t be eaten by all of those dead or drowning polar bears! :-)

  47. guam says:

    @arguethe facts

    The Polar Ice caps expand and contract the North polar Ice cap has been documented as virtually dissapearing in the past, so what?
    None of it is due to us, so why pick up on the descriptive terminology over what is an overblown myth anyhow?
    Now go agrgue those FACTS

  48. DEEBEE says:

    No problemo — Branson can buy carbon offsets fron Al. That should be good for us all peerin in through the window (cf Animal Farm)

  49. polistra says:

    Persistent contrails are not always narrow. Under the right conditions they widen into actual clouds. If Branson’s polar flights are fairly frequent, the Arctic could end up almost entirely covered with clouds, at times when it wouldn’t have been cloudy without the jets.

    I noted a similar phenomenon from repeated contrails here:
    http://polistrasmill.blogspot.com/2011/08/sharp-shadows-contrail-dictaphone.html

  50. DirkH says:

    Alex Cull says:
    December 24, 2011 at 12:17 am
    “Here’s to aviation, innovation and enterprise, and hoping they make a full recovery from the attack of the green meanies!”

    At least Branson manages to play the green meanie convincingly himself, offering to kill climate skeptics to Rajendra K. Pachauri; a suggestion that Rajendra K. Pachauri and the audience find very funny indeed.
    http://www.grist.org/climate-skeptics/2011-12-16-new-approach-to-climate-deniers-launch-them-into-space
    Ecotretas has the video.
    http://ecotretas.blogspot.com/2011/12/pachauri-openly-defends-killing.html

  51. Pete in Cumbria UK says:

    Look, here’s a picture of some strawmen…..
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/8724098/British-explorers-row-450-miles-to-North-Pole-in-world-first-voyage.html

    Even the super trustworthy and entirely unbiased BBC repeats the story…
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-14464305

    They all say the North Pole has melted – or are they just a bunch of sensationalist freeloading adventurers attempting to compensate for the fact that they’ve got very small willies?
    / varying sarc

    Anyway, living as I do under the flightpath that leads to N America, this year I ran a small experiment in my garden with a couple of solar panels, an inverter and power monitor. (I trained as an Elec Engineer, can’t resist this stuff and wondered what all the hoo-ha was about)
    Contrails devastate the output of PV solar panels and even when the trails are all ‘smeared out’ and, at first glance skywards have dispersed, their effect is noticeable to the tune of 30 to 40% reduction in PV output.
    PV fail for me, although, as the wettest place in England is 30 miles south of me and the wettest place in Scotland is 30 miles north, I knew what the result would be anyway.

  52. Fitzcarraldo says:

    OT but VIp
    http://nipccreport.org/articles/2011/dec/14dec2011a4.html
    Mann plus Nature Magazine *climate editors need to be fired or replaced urgently

  53. Walter Dnes says:

    > M.A.Vukcevic says: December 24, 2011 at 1:16 am
    >
    > There are indeed dangers considering that at the poles stratosphere is as low as
    > 9km (30,000ft) well below airlines cruising height.
    > http://www-das.uwyo.edu/~geerts/cwx/notes/chap01/trop_height1.gif

    What exactly are those dangers? Weather, as we know it, doesn’t exist above the tropopause. Jet streams will change speed/direction/location, but there’s no worry about running into cumulonimbus clouds, or freezing rain, or whatever.

  54. kcom says:

    In the case of light twin engine aircraft, it is said that the remaining engine will always get you to the crash site. ;<))

    And I’m grateful my legs are as long as they are. If they weren’t, my feet wouldn’t touch the ground.

  55. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    Without cheating, just guess, what time of year was this years ice cover the same as in the map above?

  56. David L says:

    Since the typical “proof” of AGW is always something 99.9% of all people never see (drowning polar bears, Arctic ice, Antartic ice, Himalayan glaciers, Greenland ice, etc.) this is great news. Now people will be able to see for themselves.
    I wonder if pilots will be forced to tell people to take a good like while it’s still there, and give bogus statistics about how much less ice there is with every trip, or other scare tactics. In other words “don’t believe your lying eyes”

  57. So, who is it, Sir Richard Branson or the reporter from The Independent, who doesn’t know the difference between latitude and longitude?

  58. Matthew W says:

    crosspatch says:
    December 24, 2011 at 12:36 am
    ============================
    That was cool !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  59. Good article for Christmas Eve, Mr. Watts!
    It reminded me of my late father, who proved the theorem of Great Circles when he was young.
    I miss him. We used to argue about global warming ’til we were blue in our faces…

  60. Matthew W says:

    arguethefacts says:
    December 24, 2011 at 4:34 am
    ================================
    Google “north pole ice free”
    9,000,000 results
    read just a few
    Ignorance is expensive, but cheap to cure

  61. Ed MacAulay says:

    So with more sonic booms traveling over the arctic, what will be the effect on polar bear sleep and reproduction? If the bears loose out on more sleep by being boomed awake, they will be grumpier. Are grumpy bears more prone to cannibalism of the young? Seems Dick Branson needs to rethink his priorities for the wildlife.

    Think of your grandchildren. Will they even know what a polar bear looks like?
    /sarc

  62. pat says:

    24 Dec: MoneyControl: Reuters: China CATA to sue EU on airline carbon rule – media
    “We deeply regretted that the United States lost the lawsuit. China will continue to steadfastly pursue a lawsuit,” Chai Haibo, deputy secretary of China Air Transport Association, was quoted by the Economic Observer for its Monday edition as saying.
    China Daily on Friday also quoted Chai as saying that China’s four major state-run airlines have reached an agreement with CATA to jointly sue the EU in Germany at the end of this month.
    “We know that the prospect of victory is dim, but we want to show our firm opposition by launching a lawsuit,” Chai was quoted by China Daily as saying…
    The case before the Wednesday ruling by the EU’s highest court has triggered hostile reaction from airlines around the world, as well as blocking legistration in the U.S. Congress and a threat from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton…
    http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/wire-news/china-cata-to-sue-euairline-carbon-rule-media_639096.html

  63. pat says:

    reuters gets a quote from WWF on this!

    23 Dec: Reuters: Barbara Lewis: Q+A-UPDATE 1-What next in the EU versus airlines dispute?
    In the latest of a flurry of statements from airlines and their associations, the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) called on the EU to abandon its plans.
    “This dispute needs to be resolved through constructive political dialogue, rather than embarking on a bruising trade war,” the AAPA said on Friday. “We urge the EU to scrap plans to include foreign airlines within the EU ETS.”…
    Many in Europe dismissed the threats of retaliation as rhetoric.
    “No one wants to see a trade war. No one wants to pay huge fines. There is a lot of sabre-rattling,” Jean Leston, senior transport policy adviser at WWF, said…
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/23/eu-airlines-idUSL6E7NN1VF20111223

  64. john says:

    That does it! Santa has had enough…

    http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/a1b7018f17/drunk-santa-caught-on-tape

    Happy Holidays!

  65. MJBinNM says:

    arguethefacts…

    Can you please provide a link to those satellite photos of the arctic from 1970?

  66. Neil Hyde says:

    What is being hyped here , is that the FAA have just approved a 330 minutes ETOPS rule for the 787 and certain engine installations. That means 5.5 hrs flying on a single engine from a diversion airfield .
    http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/boeing-to-offer-330-minute-etops-on-777s-365910/

    As a Powerplant Engineer at a fairly well known airline , regardless of any hypothetical environmental benefits, you will not find me on one of these !!

  67. Neil Hyde says:

    Typo , should be 777 not 787

  68. Matthew W says:

    Alexander Feht says:
    December 24, 2011 at 5:32 am

    So, who is it, Sir Richard Branson or the reporter from The Independent, who doesn’t know the difference between latitude and longitude?
    =================================================
    Don’t leave out any editor that approved it !!

  69. Billy Liar says:

    arguethefacts says:
    December 24, 2011 at 4:34 am

    What a stupid sentence.

    Seems you were just trying to take a political swipe at environmentalists using a straw dog argument.

    This is terrible writing. Please correct this sentence.

  70. Hector M. says:

    @Richard G says:
    December 23, 2011 at 11:20 pm
    How about a route over the south pole to NZ?

    In fact the Aerolineas Argentinas flight from Buenos Aires to Auckland and Australia has existed for decades, not flying exactly over the South Pole but over a large stretch of Antarctica. Aerolineas has now been re-nationalized by the crazy Kirchner government of Argentina (the firm is being supported by the govt at a rate of over $2 million per day, timetables are shaky and staff strikes are frequent). The flight may have been discontinued or soon to be, but it was a great idea.

  71. Stacey says:

    To Anthony all the contributors, moderators and poster, Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

    May the Good Ship Watts be fully provisioned, with full sails and kept on a steady course. This is a copper bottomed ship.

    Regards

    S

  72. Mark Thomas says:

    I was told by a pilot friend that ETOPS stood for “Engines Turn Or Passengers Swim”

  73. David, UK says:

    arguethefacts says:
    December 24, 2011 at 4:34 am

    …to see that the North polar ice cap has not melted away as some would believe.

    What a stupid sentence. Name one person who says the North polar ice cap has melted away? This is terrible writing. The North Polar ice cap is melting (provable, just look at satellite shots for 2011 and compare them with 1970), but no one says they’ve melted. Please correct this sentence. Seems you were just trying to take a political swipe at environmentalists using a straw dog argument.

    I tend to agree. We all dislike it when alarmists call us “climate change deniers” (like, whoever denied that climate changes?) so it’s kind of stooping to their level to misrepresent their position as they continually misrepresent ours.

  74. Archonix says:

    Alexander Feht says:
    December 24, 2011 at 5:32 am

    So, who is it, Sir Richard Branson or the reporter from The Independent, who doesn’t know the difference between latitude and longitude?

    50/50 evens, but consider that, a few years back, Branson seemed to believe that his train drivers had steering wheels…

  75. Olen says:

    Santa Clause has been flying the polar route for centuries and no harm has come from it. Merry Christmas.

  76. Ed says:

    I have flown polar routes on the B747-400 for at least fifteen years. Our greatest concern was loss of pressurization or in-flight fire. There are ten hours of almost no suitable alternates. (Of course, anywhere on the ground is preferable to airborne when on fire).

    I would hate to be out there in one of the “light twins”. Sooner or later there will be an unfortunate event.

    B747-400 captain retired

  77. Babsy says:

    Interesting. When Boeing got the 777 certified, the engines were certified to allow a new ruling from the FAA increasing ETOPS to 180 minutes. Just off the top of my head, it would seem that an engine shut down precisely over the North Pole would be very close to exceeding the 180 minute rule as I’m surmising that Barrow, AK would be the closest landing site.

  78. Max Hugoson says:

    Hey, no one has mentioned the GREENLAND leg. ICE has not really receded on Greenland either, that may be another interesting visual “find”.

  79. ChE says:

    Is this new? I have flown over the pole from Coepenhaven (I think that is how the Danish spell it) to Tokyo. Just PR I reckon. Branson is good at that.

    The WUWT synopsis is misleading – this is only about certain new generation twinjets. The 4-jet planes could do this before.

  80. Anthony Watts says:

    @argue the facts says:

    …to see that the North polar ice cap has not melted away as some would believe.

    What a stupid sentence. Name one person who says the North polar ice cap has melted away? This is terrible writing.

    REPLY: Gladly, I’ll name three.

    Al Gore (on his current TV website) and NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally

    http://current.com/green/88653981_polar-ice-gone-by-2012.htm

    Mark “death Spiral” Serreze from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22203980/ns/us_news-environment/t/rate-ice-melt-shocks-warming-experts/#.TvX25VbnuuM

    Though since you got your panties in a twist, I edited the text to add “have forecast”. The routes won’t start until 2012, and that’s what I was saying in the sentence. Since you “arguethefacts” I presume now you’ll send a letter to Al Gore, Zwally, and Serreze telling them they are stupid for believing this? If you do, please send a copy to WUWT and we’ll gladly post it.- Anthony

  81. Merry Christmas Anthony!

    Do you think we could get Branson to reroute over Ann Schwab’s Forest Ranch mansion?

    Hope your stocking is hanging heavy tomorrow morning – ta ta for now, Juanita

  82. Babsy says:

    Mark Thomas says:
    December 24, 2011 at 6:37 am

    I heard it as “Everything Turns Or People Swim”. Regardless, flying on one engine over the North Pole to any landing facility is a scary proposition!

  83. Francois says:

    Great idea. I flew many times from Europe to the Fiji islands. Eleven hours to Seoul, some time to rest there, another eleven hours to Nadi, half an hour to Suva (who would want to stay in Nadi anyway?). It is a bit tiring, I know, but then, who would want to sit for sixteen hours in an aircraft flown by some exhausted pilot. Russians and Ukrainians tend to accept such conditions. The people at Heritage think it is normal, and encourage such behaviour. ( funny, I never thought that they were communists!). Test your luck!

  84. Roger Longstaff says:

    Ed MacAulay says: December 24, 2011 at 5:43 am:
    “So with more sonic booms traveling over the arctic, what will be the effect on polar bear sleep and reproduction?”

    No problem Ed. We have offered any polar bear who complains in writing a free set of ear defenders.

  85. David Ball says:

    Dad flew search and rescue for the RCAF many moons ago. On one occasion, they blew a motor over the north Atlantic. The crew were “pluckin’ the buttons from the seats” all the way home. 8^D

    Best of the Season to all who frequent WUWT. A special thank you to Anthony, moderators and contributors. Cheers !

  86. Yngvar says:

    There’s precious little magnetic shielding so far north. The pilots and crew will have to wear dosimeters to measure accumulated radiation.

  87. richard verney says:

    It is about time that planes were permiited to fly over the North pole. If this shortens flying time, it can only be a good thing, since less harmful pollutants will be emitted.

  88. Josualdo says:

    Ian W says: December 24, 2011 at 12:39 am:The 787 has just completed a fastest ever in class flight East around the world from Seattle in which one leg was Seattle to Dhakar, Bangladesh

    Dhaka. Dhakar can be confused with Dakar, Senegal.

  89. Jiri Moudry says:

    Heathrow-Fiji via North Pole? MILLIONS will queue for this flight..

  90. Josualdo says:

    Olen says: December 24, 2011 at 7:12 am: Santa Clause has been flying the polar route for centuries and no harm has come from it. Merry Christmas.

    Multiple reindeers. One dies out, the other 19 keep on. Merry Christmas to everybody.

  91. Stephen Richards says:

    I still spit blood over Branson. One of his snotty nosed little brats was on UK tele this year to tell us all that we must change the way we live to save the planet. Then jumped on his dad’s aeroplane to fly off the their private Caribbean island. a$$0

  92. Ian W says:

    polistra says:
    December 24, 2011 at 5:08 am
    Persistent contrails are not always narrow. Under the right conditions they widen into actual clouds. If Branson’s polar flights are fairly frequent, the Arctic could end up almost entirely covered with clouds, at times when it wouldn’t have been cloudy without the jets.

    As I stated in my previous post, persistent contrails in a super-saturated atmospheric layer can create cirrus and several will smear together. However, it should be noted that to do this the atmosphere was already supersaturated with the water vapor one of the more powerful ‘green house gases’ so will already have been absorbing CO2. However, it will not have been raising the albedo and cirrus definitely does that – see:

    Pete in Cumbria UK says:
    December 24, 2011 at 5:19 am
    Contrails devastate the output of PV solar panels and even when the trails are all ‘smeared out’ and, at first glance skywards have dispersed, their effect is noticeable to the tune of 30 to 40% reduction in PV output.

    So Pete has noted the large albedo effect preventing energy from reaching the surface. Observational science.

    Now the other point is that the poles normally are where there is continual descending dry air- it is part of the Earth’s atmospheric circulation so there tends to be less contrailing over the poles. Moreover, jet aircraft have been flying over the poles for more than 50 years there are regular polar routes. Many of these aircraft were early generation aircraft with far less efficient engines – yet the poles have not been noted for persistent contrails.

  93. “Sir Richard Branson … may take a hit from having planes spew jet exhaust in what some people call a highly sensitive region.”
    ——————————————-
    Maybe he could earn Polar Credits by making extra ice cubes.

  94. Beardy One is over the North Pole when suddenly, one of the engines explodes.
    The chief engineer tells the pilot that they have to lose half the cargo. So the pilot orders the co-pilot to get half the passengers to jump, ‘do it alphabetically’

    so the co pilot gets the rear door open and announces – ‘I want all the
    Anthropogenic Global warmists
    Believers in models
    Catastrophic doom sayers
    Delegates to IPCC beanfeasts
    to make their way to the back of the plane and JUMP’

    Mike Mann looks at Al Gore and says ‘Shoot Al, thats us’

    Al looks at Mike and says
    ‘Not today Mike. Today we are Yamal experts’

    EO

  95. Richard G says:

    polistra says:
    Persistent contrails are not always narrow. Under the right conditions they widen into actual clouds. If Branson’s polar flights are fairly frequent, the Arctic could end up almost entirely covered with clouds, at times when it wouldn’t have been cloudy without the jets.
    *****************
    If a jet makes a persistent contrail in the dark and there is no one there to not see it, can it still interfere with the solar gain that is not happening?

  96. Ralph says:

    Polar flying was not that common because you need upgraded navigation equipment to do it. Magnetic navigation is hopeless, and most IRSs (INSs) are restricted to not more than 78 degrees north. GNS (satnav) has made things much easier nowadays.

  97. Richard Patton says:

    “Richard G says:
    December 23, 2011 at 11:20 pm
    How about a route over the south pole to NZ?”

    I just did some measuring on Google Earth and all the locations on Earth to which a flight from London would be shorter flying over the South Pole are located more than 400 miles south of the southernmost point in New Zealand. The only possibly commercially viable route that I could find that comes even close to the South Pole would be from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Adelaide, Australia. But since for more than half of the journey there is no divert other than the destination I don’t think that this route is even allowed for four engined jets.

  98. TP says:

    Ralph, you have it (sort of) backwards. GPS coverage is practically non-existent above 84N. The aircraft reverts to IRS as the primary source of navigation. There is no restriction on IRS NAV in Polar Regions. My 747-400 is required to dispatch with all 3 IRSs operational, and I need 2 to complete the segment in Polar Regions (78N and higher). Also, we don’t use magnetic navigation. We use grid nav, which the Flight Management Computer and IRSs can handle just fine. Most 747s were not equipped with GPS prior to around 2000 – 2002. Polar region flying was a daily operation long, long before that. There will be more polar flying in coming years, but traffic is increasing on ALL international routes. That’s simply the nature of global economic growth. In short, the only new thing pointed out in this article is the regulatory authorities allowing ETOPS for longer segments.

  99. kbray in california says:

    As I think of it….
    All those jets flying over the pole could intentionally drop special loads of that famous “Blue Ice” that comes off the plane from time to time…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_ice_%28aircraft%29

    After a few years, this could pile up into “”one “honey” of an anthropogenic glacier”.
    I get flushed just thinking of the potential.
    Put that cold air at altitude to good use.
    Happy Holidays.

  100. Philip Bradley says:

    The much quoted NASA Langley paper on temperatures after 9/11 when no aircraft were flying claimed a temperature drop due to no contrails and the flying ban – yet did not account for the dome of high-pressure and very dry air over the eastern USA in the days they measured (remember how clear the sky was in the reports of 9/11).

    I just threw the contrail issue out for discussion. As wikipedia says there are ‘large uncertainties’, which is climate-speak for ‘we don’t know’.

    A study of contrails over England in WWII found the opposite effect, cooling from contrails.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=contrails-aviation-affects-climate

    BTW, the NASA study did account for the weather over those days by comparing with similar weather patterns for those dates, and still found cooling from the contrail absence.

  101. enneagram says:

    It´s a GREEN virgin!

  102. Green Sand says:

    Mankind can never benefit from an incremental number of virgins.

  103. ShrNfr says:

    @DEEBEE That is only while the carbon credit exchange continues to exist. The one in the US is dead. The one in Europe is dying.

    It’s amazing though what cognitive dissonance can do. Be it aliens from Clarion or AGW from CO2.

    Best of the season to all. A time to take our personal inventory and understand how to be better people to the ones we love in the year to come. And Dr. Watts, many thanks for the time and effort of the blog. I want to even chuck a thank you to CTM, he deserves it too.

  104. enneagram says:

    Virgins cooperate for a sustainable future without kids, as the Holy Agenda 21 commands. If necessary the Big Brother will provide well trained clones instead.

  105. Philip Bradley says:

    The analysis, by atmospheric scientists at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, also shows that in the Arctic, aircraft vapour trails produced 15–20% of warming.”

    http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/yet-another-human-climate-warming-effect-in-the-arctic-aircraft-contrails/

    I strongly suspect the effect is seasonal. Warming in winter/night. Cooling in summer/day.

    So the winter effect is likely a higher percentage.

  106. Lightrain says:

    “contrails (as with any clouds) _only_ occur in layers of the atmosphere where the humidity is close to 100% or more”

    Or more?

  107. Richard Patton says:

    This thread got me real curious, are there any other routs which go right over the Pole. (Fiji-London is close enough that it doesn’t make a difference.) I could not find any other route between cities which would have international service which came closer than 400 miles to the North Pole. The London to Fiji route is unique.

  108. Richard Patton says:

    Lightrain says:
    December 24, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    “contrails (as with any clouds) _only_ occur in layers of the atmosphere where the humidity is close to 100% or more”

    Or more?

    Yes, and more. From about 96% and up. Above 100% is called supersaturation. Any hydroscopic nuclei from aircraft exhaust will cause almost instantaneous condensation of the moisture in the air.

  109. LazyTeenager says:

    EO Peter says
    Was under impression that Mount Erebus disaster put an end to “civilian” flight over Antartica due to the difficult and truly horrific conditions for those involved in the recovery operation.
    ———
    There is a distinction to be made between low altitude tourism flights and high altitude transits.

  110. crosspatch says:

    Cargo and military flights have used the polar routes for a very long time. The problem is as mentioned earlier in the thread, that in case of trouble, you are a long way from any help. In winter it might be possible to put the plane down on the ice — maybe — but rescue would be would be a difficult situation. Any flight experiencing a major problem requiring an immediate emergency landing would likely be lost, in my personal opinion. There might be places along that route where the nearest airfield could be hours away. Rescue in the arctic is not like rescue in the Atlantic or Pacific (not that many of those are required). The major malfunctions that I can recall that would require such landings have all happened over land, to the best of my knowledge. I am thinking of issues such as United 232 where an engine failure resulted in severed hydraulic lines resulting in a loss of normal control of the aircraft.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Airlines_Flight_232

  111. Dave Springer says:

    “Fiji straddles the 180-degree line of latitude”

    Fiju must be in a different dimension of some sort. Is there a wormhole over teh North Pole that gets you there?

  112. Philip Mulholland says:

    Some pictures of Earth taken by the NASA Apollo spring time missions include the sunlit arctic.
    For example:
    Apollo 10 view of the Earth 18/May/1969 Image #10075142
    Apollo 10 view of the Earth 18/May/1969 Image #10075143
    Apollo 13 view of the Earth April/1970 Image #10075511

  113. tom s says:

    “Sir Richard Branson, who has paired up with Al Gore in the past”….

    Man I detest these elitist pigs. I now wish the worst for Branson’s ventures.

  114. JeremyR says:

    Having been in a 2 engine airliner that lost an engine (I had the seat right over the engine no less) I would not be wanting to do this.

    Time to bring back the tri-motors!

  115. a jones says:

    JeremyR says:
    December 25, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Having been in a 2 engine airliner that lost an engine (I had the seat right over the engine no less) I would not be wanting to do this.

    —————————————————

    I tend to agree with you Sir. When going long distances over water it’s four engine security for me.

    Kindest Regards

  116. Black Flag says:

    Branson is an environmentalist wacko.
    The arctic, as all environmentalist wackos know, must be protected at all costs.
    Branson can save money on his business by flying over the arctic. To hell with Environmentalism. Business – profits first!
    Branson gets what he wants. Environmentalist wackos look the other way.

  117. John F. Hultquist says in part:
    December 23, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    “They must be flying these at about 7,000 feet:”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairchild_Hiller_FH-227

    These are turboprop passenger aircraft, and I have flown on similar turboprop aircraft, at much higher cruising altitudes altitudes around and over 20,000 feet. This particular one has a service ceiling of 28,000 feet. Meanwhile, the original post relates to 2-engine jet aircraft, which I have flown on at 27,000 and 29,000 feet cruising altitude.

    Commercial flights like to fly near the tropopause, and if they can’t go that high then they like to fly as high as feasible. Thinner air usually means less drag and less fuel consumption for a given speed, and colder air usually means easier work for the compressor part of turboprop and turbojet engines.

  118. david says:
    December 24, 2011 at 1:21 am
    “No one on the plane will comment about how much ice there is! In Winter it is pitch black up there. Nap, catch a movie and pass some long hours in the dark, that is all.”

    In mid-March, it is a light dusk at the North Pole, while Arctic ice coverage is close to its annual maximum. After 3/21 and before 9/22, the sun is up 24 hours a day at the North Pole. In June and early July, the sun is up 24 hours a day everywhere north of about 70 degrees north, and there is usually ice most places more than about 75 degrees north then, even in the past few years.

  119. u.k.(us) says:

    crosspatch says:
    December 25, 2011 at 3:20 am
    =======
    It seems any accident investigated by the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) can be retrieved here:

    http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/reports_aviation.html

    (See 01/15/2009 on the above link for the 196 page PDF of the investigation of the airliner that ditched in the Hudson River ).
    It shows the flight path, talks about pilots state of mind, weight of an average goose (that got sucked into the engines), engine core damage, flight crew performance, ditching airspeed, airspeed displays, and weather etc.

    Or, this page:

    http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/reports.html

    Enables you to;

    Browse reports by:

    Mode:

    Aviation
    Hazardous Materials
    Highway
    Marine
    Pipeline
    Railroad

    You can read the summary or the full report (PDF).

  120. Ralph says:

    >>TP says: December 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm
    >>Ralph, you have it (sort of) backwards. GPS coverage is practically
    >>non-existent above 84N. The aircraft reverts to IRS as the primary
    >>source of navigation. There is no restriction on IRS NAV in Polar Regions.

    The 737 is not certified to fly greater than 78 degrees north or south, whether on IRS or GNS. It costs money to fly over the poles, and there is no point spending this on short-haul SLUFs that will hopefully never go there.

    .

  121. Ian W says:

    Philip Bradley says:
    December 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm
    The much quoted NASA Langley paper on temperatures after 9/11 when no aircraft were flying claimed a temperature drop due to no contrails and the flying ban – yet did not account for the dome of high-pressure and very dry air over the eastern USA in the days they measured (remember how clear the sky was in the reports of 9/11).

    I just threw the contrail issue out for discussion. As wikipedia says there are ‘large uncertainties’, which is climate-speak for ‘we don’t know’.

    A study of contrails over England in WWII found the opposite effect, cooling from contrails.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=contrails-aviation-affects-climate

    BTW, the NASA study did account for the weather over those days by comparing with similar weather patterns for those dates, and still found cooling from the contrail absence.

    It is possible to have similar weather patterns but different humidity. It was the humidity that was not accounted for – the GOES satellites now show the atmospheric water vapor very clearly see http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/natl/flash-wv.html

    Contrailing will not take place in the low humidity areas and radiative heat loss through the dry air will be greater and lead to cooler temperatures.

  122. Richard Patton says:

    Håkan B says:
    December 26, 2011 at 5:53 am

    So what’s new with this:
    http://www.polerouter.de/frameset-story.htm

    I checked out this link-despite the claim for over the pole the closest they got to the pole was when they were over the middle of Greenland, 1300 mi (2100km) from the pole. What I find interesting about the London-Fiji route it is the only commercial route directly over the north pole.

  123. I was thinking about aircraft safety, then I got to thinking about the reams and reams of papers and hard documentation that goes to making the industry safe.
    Then I got to thinking about what type of person/scientist we trust to produce this safety stuff (because they are doing an ok job)

    Lastly
    I got to thinking about what type of person/scientist I would NOT WANT producing this safety critical stuff.

    yep you got it.

  124. Keith Sketchley says:

    Well, the older routes are not representative of Arctic over-flights.

    Instead look at Seattle/Vancouver BC to Germany, perhaps Beigin-London which IIRC is the route on which a 777′s fuel got too cold-soaied a few years ago.

    The person who really needs to look out the window on his new route is Branson himeself.

  125. Keith Sketchley says:

    Oops, that’s Bejing.
    I’d also check flights that stop in Anchorage to refuel.

  126. philincalifornia says:

    Dave Springer says:
    December 25, 2011 at 5:37 am
    “Fiji straddles the 180-degree line of latitude”

    Fiju must be in a different dimension of some sort. Is there a wormhole over teh North Pole that gets you there?
    ========================================
    Perhaps they own the International dateline and get all its 180 degrees on that side of the world ??

    Speaking of longitude though, it does remind me of an interesting story I heard from when the dateline actually did run through one of the Fijian islands (which I have had the pleasure of visiting twice). With the major religion at the time being British-derived Methodism, opening a shop on a Sunday was forbidden. One enterprising shopkeeper had a great solution. He had a long shop straddling the dateline, with a door at each end. You can guess the rest.

    Bula

  127. Keith Sketchley says:

    Oh, right over top the pole.

    Bombay/Mumbai-Edmonton is close to that.
    (BOM-YEG)
    People were trying to fy that at one time to connect substantial East Indian population of Canada to India.

    Existing routes go over much of the Arctic, Anchorage-Heathrow for example is well north, to Germany would be a bit further north, to Moscow even further but probably not a popular route..
    (Once south like Tokyo and Bejing the optimum route is over Russia, but cost/permissions/safety may be factors.
    http://www.gcmap.com/ gives theoretical GC routes, however winds and permissions/ATC costs will affect routing.

  128. Håkan B says:

    The Copenhagen-Los Angeles route didn’t get really close to the pole, but the later Copenhagen-Anchorage-Tokyo line was very close to it.
    http://gc.kls2.com/cgi-bin/gc?PATH=CPH-ANC-NRT&RANGE=&PATH-COLOR=red&PATH-UNITS=nm&PATH-MINIMUM=&SPEED-GROUND=&SPEED-UNITS=kts&RANGE-STYLE=best&RANGE-COLOR=navy&MAP-STYLE=

  129. Richard Patton says:

    Oh, right over top the pole.

    Bombay/Mumbai-Edmonton is close to that.
    (BOM-YEG)
    People were trying to try that at one time to connect substantial East Indian population of Canada to India.

    Still it’s 259 miles from the pole. To make a flight over the pole the origin and destination would have to be 180deg Longitude apart, and London-Fiji is the only combination that I’ve been able to find which meets that criteria, making it a rather unique route.

  130. Gary Pearse says:

    I had the great pleasure of flying over the Arctic from Toronto to Beijing in June (and back) and Toronto to Shanghai in September. In June it was ice as far as I could see and in September – a lot of cracked ice but still extensive.

  131. Keith Sketchley says:

    Uh, yes Anthony, I am one of the persons who didn’t read well enough to see that the news was twin-engined aircraft. Embarassing, as I was close to the original effort of twins operating in oceanic/remote airspace.

    The key is distance to a diversion airport, which must have suitable weather forecast. In the High Arctic of Canada, I guess that Inuvik and Thule are the closest paved runways, as Resolute Bay is gravel. (Many flights from western NA to Europe would use Sondre Stromfjord in Greenland as a diversion point, presumably with Thule AFB as a backup.)
    With old four-engined aircraft the industry tended to overlook the risk of systems failures, but fuel prices and amount of use have taken even many 747s out of service.
    I’d also check what survival gear is required.

    Fuel reserves will tend to be greater on those routes, and flight operations rigor stronger.

  132. Keith Sketchley says:

    As for Francois’ “exhausted pilot” remark, extra crew are onboard and there is a rest protocol, such as naps of max 40 minutes and sleeps of min 2.5hrs IIRC. Not optimum, since a person is not going to get REM sleep, but they do get much rest. Semi-private bed areas are above the ceiling, where there is much space in a wide-body fuselage.
    As for pax, I hope they let people walk around when not sleeping in spacious recliner seats (no BA back-of-the-airplane seats-jammed-together foolishness).

    As for navigation, “Ralph”, polar flights use free-gyros (not magentic compass) and more capable INS (used Doppler in the old 707 days).
    I’d also want to check the claim of a GPS “hole”, since those satellites orbit the earth.
    They are not the geo-stationary communications ones whose aimed antennas don’t provide good coverage in the High Arctic (but HF does, especially with HF Datalink now) and there’s Iridicum which also uses orbiting satellites.
    WAAS augmentation of GPS may be limited, as that is broadcast from geos, but that is not necessay for the navigation discussed herein.

    And regarding contrails, keep in mind that flight altitudes with relatively local piston-engined airplanes in WW II were rather lower than today’s long flights with turbofan airplanes. That might make a difference.

    As for night, keep in mind a factor is heat loss to space (much of it IR?), though not nearly as much in winter up there as at night to the south.

  133. ES says:

    Keith Sketchley
    I don’t think the problem TP is having is because GPS doesn’t work, because it has worked in (Lat/Long mode) at the both poles for more than twenty years, but it is with his use of the grid system with the GPS.
    There are more than one grid systems but the Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) is a common one. In the areas near the poles the lines of longitude or meridians converge together so fast that a grid system designed for lower latitudes doesn’t work well. So, in the polar regions, a different convention is used. South of 80°S, UPS South (Universal Polar Stereographic) is used. North of 84°N, UPS North is used.
    Even handheld GPS’s allow you to change from Lat/Long mode to different grids. If you draw a line through the orange peel diagram of UTM grid below, near the top, you can see that the line goes through a slice, then empty space, then through another slice etc. A GPS set to this grid would likewise work and then quit as a person goes through the slices.
    To make a long story short I think the GPs needs to be in Lat/Long mode or UPS North.
    http://www.gpsinformation.org/dale/measure.htm

  134. Thomas Mann says:

    A little off topic but heard this story the other day.

    After the war, Churchill entered the men’s room off Parliament and found him alone with the man who had taken over the Prime Minister’s slot, Clement Atlee. Although there were 18 urinals, Churchill headed for the corner while Atlee remained in the ninth position.

    Clement: What are you doing way over there Winston. The election is long over.
    Winston: Whenever you see something big Clement, you want to nationalize it

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