do airliners irl fly over the North/South pole?

i have seen some topics here about NAV mode not working when you get to the north/south pole! but in reality do airliner pilots set flight routes over the Antarctic to reach their destination on the other side?!

@MGM1 Yes, they do! The reason most transpacific planes go over the North Pole rather than a straight line is because it is shorter. (Distance and time)


Not the pole itself

@Tim_B Well, maybe not directly over the North Pole, but really, really close

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Not as close as you’re thinking. The map skews the real dimensions of that part of the globe


Why would flying over the North Pole be a disaster?

Here’s a track log of a flight that flew the northernmost path on the transPacific side today:

You can see it never gets close before coming back. (Well, close is a relative term. It’s closer than I’ll ever be, but not close to actually getting there if that were your target).

It wouldn’t be disaster, it would be inviting disaster to route flights directly over the pole.

I must stress again, that is his question. Directly over the magnetic pole in a vehicle which utilizes magnetic heading directional functionality.

He’s not asking “do they go north of Canada?” He’s asking “do they fly from one hemisphere to the other by going over the absolute pole of the globe?” And the answer is no, why would they?

Show me a map of current traffic where any plane is routed thusly and you’ll have me beat. But I don’t think you’ll find one.


I believe no current flight flies over the South Pole either. There were a few earlier that flew across the South Pole, like Pan Am had a flight as Pan Am 50 with the 747SP, but from what I know, no current air route flies over the South Pole


Over Antarctica, yes. The pole, no. But that continent is huge. Their latitude never gets near 90, I’d imagine.

Sorry, I didn’t read the specifics very carefully, my bad.

Yes, PanAm 50 was an outlier, you’re right.

But he’s trying to do what I tried once, which is to fly over the pole, but IF gets confused with heading and you can’t really do it. If the original question is “is that something that needs to be fixed because it’s something that happens on the regular?” then no, it isn’t, because no current flight utilizes such a path. People do travel to Antarctica somehow, so obviously they get near enough (Metallica played a concert there FGS), but 90 degrees latitude South is not a GPS location you’ll find on any flight log any normal day.

I do not believe flights over Antarctica are permitted. A few airlines sometimes do it I am sure, but no flight over the continent is usually permitted because of the Mount Erebus incidents with Air New Zealand. The rule is also because of the vast terrain. Many passengers who were involved in the crash of an aircraft over Antarctica would just end up dying I would assume because of the weather, limited food, and limited water

so what i understand is flying over the Antarctica is a thing and flying over the pole or very close to the pole is another thing!

Pretty sure EDTO would cover that. As long as you’re within range of an en-route alternate then you’re fine I believe? I’m not an expert with EDTO though or if there are any restrictions to overflight of Antarctica. There’s a lot less land in the Southern Hemisphere as well making GCDs less likely to cross over Antarctica or near the poles if there are any that do.

As for polar ops, again, not an expert on that subject either. But with the avionics we have today, would it really matter if it crossed directly over the pole or not? I figure it’s just another specific point on Earth, just like all the other specific points.

KJFK to VHHH looks like your best bet. They shoot due north for the pole.

Unfortunately, tracking doesn’t seem to be publicly available for about a 6 hour gap when they’re in the extreme regions or northern latitudes. It apparently cuts about 2 hours off the route.

Yes, but you would have to be within 60 minutes of an airport that can accommodate your aircraft, and for larger 777s and other aircraft, Antarctica’s airports would probably not handle that. When Regan was president, his FAA administrator made this rule, and it is usually followed. That is where ETOPS comes. Most airliners are certified for flying over large bodies of water, but even with this, most aircraft are still not allowed to fly over Antarctica. Another thought was that the navigation would be a disaster as stated in the original post. There are many areas of unclaimed land in the vast continent, and one of them, the “Marie Byrd Land,” is an impressive 620,000 square miles, with no nation having a claim to it. This also causes problems as it would be extremely hard for any nation to do something in the event of a crash. And again, the Mount Erebus incident disallowed those flights.

Simply, ETOPS does not cover Antarctica flights.

I highly doubt any airport in Antarctica would be suitable as an enroute alternate anyway as part of ETOPS is being able to get a plane to whatever airport and pickup the stranded passengers within 24 hours I believe? And of course, being able to accommodate all the passengers at whichever airport.

Either way, ETOPS or EDTO I wouldn’t think if being over the Sahara, over the middle of the ocean, or over Antarctica would make a difference so long as you were within range of a suitable alternate, be it 180min, 240min, etc.

I’ll have to do some reading on the specific incident you mentioned though. Thanks!

It surprisingly does! The administrator of the FAA during Regan’s administration made this law about 60 minutes.

just checked flightradar24 and got this!

how close is this route to the north pole?

Who’s providing ADS-B info to FR24 from way up there is my question…but no, that’s quite far from the pole.

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Here’s the track log:

Not as close to 90 degrees as you’re thinking.