OK – your question is actually flawed when you say “in the middle of the Atlantic.” Because… ready for this?

A flight between New York City and London goes NOWHERE NEAR the middle of the Atlantic!

“Huh?” you say… That’s ridiculous!

And it’s a valid response. Especially if you’ve grown up thinking the world looks like this:

After all – a quick glance shows there’s lots of open ocean and not much in between. But alas… the world does NOT look like this. The world is a sphere, and therefore, the shortest route between two destinations will often take you up and over poles. Remember – the map is grossly distorting areas further north – there’s NO WAY Greenland is the same size as South America, for example. Other maps will still distort the views (same problems – squish a sphere into a flat plane) but it’s much closer.

So – a flight between New York City and London ACTUALLY looks much closer to this:

Up over Nova Scotia, past Gander, Newfoundland, and within relatively easy distance of Iceland, Scotland and Ireland… especially if they fly further north (as they are prone to doing) in order to catch a good jet stream tailwind.

Now – look how similar this route is to a ‘point-to-point’ route that involves stopping at a bunch of airports along the way:

Long story short – flying New York to London keeps you a lot closer to land than you’d think.


Several people have commented with things like “Planes still go over the water from XXX to YYY.” Gentle reader – of COURSE they go over the water. That’s not the point – the question here was about New York to London.

But, ok – I’ll play along! But I’ll warn you – if you want to play the whole “Here’s a scary flight” game, I present to you the GRAND-DADDY of “You better make sure your tanks are full and the life rafts are in servicable shape” flights….

Folks – I give you… Qantas Flight 27/28, which is Sydney, Australia, to/from Santiago, Chile.

You leave Sydney and are IMMEDIATELY over water, where you won’t see land again for four hours – which is New Zealand. Hope you enjoyed that brief look at Terra Firma… because for the next 8+ hours, you’ve only got water or ice underneath you. Sure, you may technically be close(ish) to land, but it’s not land with runways…

Jeff Chatterton, Frequent Flyer, in excess of 125,000 miles annually


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