How to Flight Plan ( Part I )

Author: Brandon J Kearns – Director of Flight Operations

When you are getting ready to drive your car across the country there are a lot of things to think about right? You have to think about what highways to take, the weather, even where you are going to sleep if it is a cross country trip. Well funny thing is a pilot has to think about pretty much the same types of things. Flight crews select routing, look at weather, determine the performance capabilities of their aircraft, and yes even think where they are going to sleep!

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Routes:

 In today’s day and age with the technology available to flight crews they have a wide variety of routes to choose from. Most modern day aircraft are equipped with state of the art avionics, which are integrated with Global Positioning Systems (GPS). These systems allow the flight crews to select routes which are more direct or “as the crow fly’s”.

In the example below you can see a common route flown by aircraft departing from Los Angeles and flying to New York. You can see that the route actually curves and is not Imagenecessarily a straight line. Most would say by looking at a map that a straight line between two points has to be the fastest right? Well believe it or not when drawing a straight line on a sphere, a straight line actually appears to have a curve when represented on a map as shown below. This is known as Great Circle Distance

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Flight crews must also pay close attention to weather which could present a hazard to safe flight operations. The fantastic advantage with operating jet aircraft is the speed. The reason that I bring this up is that at Jet Speeds allow you to deviate around a cluster of storms more than a hundred miles and only add a few minutes to the total flight time.

 Now wouldn’t that be great in your car if you could avoid that winter storm by one hundred miles in the time it took you to listen to a song on your iPod?

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In Part II of this Blog series we will be taking a closer look at how meteorological conditions affect flights.

One comment on “How to Flight Plan ( Part I )

  1. Solange Hooks says:

    Good read! I have a lot of respect for pilots who fly across country and the world on a daily basis. There is so much that goes into it and it assuring to know that you guys are always doing a very detailed planning procedure.

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