Why Do Planes Not Fly Over the Pacific Ocean?

If you have ever examined the flight path of many planes, you may notice that they tend to move in a curved pattern, rather than in a straight line across the Pacific Ocean. This can lead you to wonder why planes do not fly over the Pacific Ocean, and what the reasons for this may be. Luckily, we have the answers for you.

For the most part, many commercial flights will not go directly over the Pacific Ocean for flights that connect the United States to Asia. These flights will mainly stay close to bodies of land, and take curved routes instead.

If you have an interest in aviation, then you may be wondering why this is, and what makes it the most preferred aircraft path. 

Why do planes not fly over the Pacific Ocean?

You may be wondering why many planes take a specific route towards the destination, and why many do not fly over the Pacific Ocean. For the most part, it is all about saving fuel, shortening the journey, saving time, safety, and a few other factors. 

You may notice that most planes do not take a direct route or straight line across the Pacific to get to their destination, and instead they may move in a curved line over land instead.

When you look at a map, the Earth seems flat, and a straight line towards the desired destination will seem like the most obvious path. However, the Earth is actually spherical, and so a curved path is actually often the shortest distance between the two locations. In addition, it is not only the fastest route, but often the most fuel efficient, by taking a curved route. 

One of the most important reasons why most commercial flights will hug the land instead of flying overseas is in case of an emergency landing. By staying closer to land, this allows for a safer landing if needed.

To say that no planes fly over the Pacific Ocean is simply untrue. Some planes do fly over the Pacific Ocean, as many would never be able to get to Hawaii if they didn’t! In addition, flights from the United States to New Zealand and Australia will have to go over the Pacific Ocean, too.

Do planes fly over the Atlantic Ocean?

Yes, planes fly over the Atlantic Ocean, as this is called a transatlantic flight. These types of flights often connect Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, North American and South America.

However, the same goes for crossing the Atlantic Ocean, as it does for the Pacific. Most flights will stay close to the land, and will move in curved routes, as this is safer, quicker, and more fuel efficient.

Is it safe to fly over the ocean?

Planes have been flying over oceans in aviation since before the second World War. With aerial transportation being the quickest route across the world, airlines have standardized the practice of flying over the ocean for decades.

If you have any reservations about flying over the ocean, keep in mind that airlines and pilots take all of the necessary precautions and safety measures in mind when planning, routing and taking any passengers on their flight.

Airlines do in fact fly over the Atlantic and Pacific ocean every single day, as in some flights it will be unavoidable. For the most part, flying over the ocean will only be brief, and the airline will stay as close to land, and solid ground as possible when on their journey. This is only in case of a worst case scenario, as it is much easier and safer to execute an emergency landing on land, than on the open water. 

How long does it take to fly over the Pacific Ocean?

How long it takes to fly over the Pacific Ocean will depend on many contributing factors. For instance, the winds, the route you take and the weather conditions can affect the time it takes to reach the destination greatly. 

That being said, a Great Circle flight from say San Francisco to Tokyo is about 5124nm, which can take about 9 and a quarter hours with no wind at 560 ground speed. But, with a jet stream tailwind of about 200 kts, it could take around 6.2 to 7 hours to get from Tokyo to San Francisco, but this can often vary.