Flying over the Arctic Circle

World //
Flying over the Arctic Circle

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line; that is a fact, but it is not always the line that you would guess.

Leaving JFK airport in New York on a 5pm bird (Eastern time zone) in route to PEK airport in Beijing, China is a long flight: 13 hours on a Boeing 747 to be exact.


A quick glance at a map will tell you to head due west, but that is not the route that many commercial airlines take. In fact, we headed north through Canada and into the Arctic circle. This is most likely to avoid the Jetstream, which would be moving in the opposite direction as our flight, along with hundreds, if not thousands of domestic US flights.


In years past, my trips to Asia have taken similar routes from New York, with layovers in Fairbanks, Alaska; Seoul, Korea; and even Tokyo, Japan. But this was my first trip via Air China, which seemed to prefer the colder, but less crowded route: first over the Hudson Bay, with icy islands 35,000 feet below my window, but several hours later, the islands disappeared, replaced with thousands of miles of ice shelf, and massive cracks, revealing the frigid Arctic Ocean as far as the eye can see from that altitude.



The 'coolest' part of this route was not the ice, but the warm glow of the setting sun, which actually NEVER dipped below the horizon because of our rate of westward travel, and our low northern latitude. A truly unique experience indeed!