Flights don't always follow the great circle route (the shortest distance between two points on the globe) for a number of reasons:

  1. Political Instability
  2. Airspace Closures
  3. ETOPS Limits
  4. Geography (eg. the Tibetan plateau)
  5. Airspace Structure
  6. Weather
  7. Prevailing Winds
  8. etc.

I am trying to find flight tracks (preferrably on Flightradar24) to illustrate each of these cases. Below is an example I found of a Finnair flight avoiding Ukrainian, Russian and Afghani airspace.

I would be grateful for other examples that I can use to illustrate these cases.

enter image description here

Source: Own rendering using matplotlib basemap based on geodata from Finnair Flight FIN99 (12.02.2023), from https://flightradar24.com

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What is your question? You seem to have answered it by listing reasons why great circle routes aren’t followed. Practically all commercial flights do not follow GC routes due to the things listed in your question. I would add that “prevailing wind” means typical wind whereas flight planning is due to the actual forecast wind aloft at various flight levels (dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/prevailing-wind). The jet stream changes in strength and position day to day. $\endgroup$ Jul 19, 2023 at 8:04
  • $\begingroup$ "I am trying to find flight tracks (preferrably on Flightradar24) to illustrate each of these cases." What I had hoped to find in an answer are some identifier of flights in which one of the reasons I listed (or more than one) are quite pronounced. $\endgroup$ Jul 19, 2023 at 12:26

1 Answer 1


Here's an example from recent memory:

RSD 898

Flight 1, Flight 2

A Russian government plane has to avoid Europe to head to Washington D.C.


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