Airway vs Direct routes

I notice that in China most flights use airways, whereas in US there are a lot of direct routings between waypoints. Is there a reason for that? Also what about safety?

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Could you provide an example of this? Most IFR flights are cleared on airways.

I’d say most commercial flights are cleared this way. I have a friend who flies private and when I get to ride with him we fly direct IFR.

How long of a flight? Direct IFR over short distances would be reasonable if I had to guess, but it seems like things would get confusing for controllers when you start to fly direct over hundreds of miles.

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Yeah not too long, usually like 150nm.

I meant like part of the flight plan might be direct. You see quite a lot on flightaware

For instance Toronto to Winnipeg

China is very restrictive, thus the constant use of airways. But for the US, I guess it’s more flexible

These planes flies on airways too and almost all commercial flights do that. The flights may appear to be direct probably because the network of airways is denser in the US which allows more direct flight while the restricted airspace in China means there is only specific areas you can fly.

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If you look at a chart of China, it’s essentially a checkerboard or restricted airspaces. The flexibility which exists in the US to deviate a bit from exclusive airway use (though it must be said that they certainly do use airway routing on plenty of flights) doesn’t exist in a China because you essentially need to stay exactly on the airway to navigate between the gauntlet of restricted airspaces.

To give you some idea (deviating from the airway almost certainly puts you in one restricted airspace after another):

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I was riding in a jet and the PIC asked Boston Center if he could deviate from his flight plan and we did some 90 degree banks… Seems a little different in China.

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