How do you decide on an air route?

Who decides on the best way to get from Frankfurt to New York?

A team of specialist flight service advisers called “dispatchers.” They help the pilots calculate the flight route. This decision is influenced by a host of different factors: Which aircraft type is being used? What are the weather conditions? Do restrictions apply to a particular airspace en route? By signing his or her name, a pilot agrees to the dispatchers’ suggestions. Along with the crew, the pilot is then responsible for the flight. In the event of bad weather, this also means making the decision to fly a detour.

Are there freeways in the sky?

Over the North Atlantic, we actually do have something like that, they’re called North Atlantic Tracks or NATs for short. If we didn’t, we would never be able to cope with the enormous amount of air traffic on that route. Due to the strong but inconsistent west wind, which never quite blows the same way, the NATs are determined on a daily basis. The principle is this: Reduce the headwind on the route from Europe to America, and maximize the tailwind on the way back.

What happens if the weather turns bad all of a sudden?

Because we need to prepare for all eventualities, including bad weather and anything else that could make it impossible for us to land at our destination airport, we have to select an alternative airport before even leaving the ground. That way, we can take along enough fuel reserves for a longer flight than originally expected. So it’s always possible to make a safe landing.