A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2016 Oct 6, 13:05 -0700
Tony Oz, you wrote:
"I guess there could also be yet another kink around eastern Ukraine as well."
Tragically, yes. In the attached flighradar24 graphic, we can see flights diverted around eastern Ukraine this afternoon. The highlighted flight is a Rossiya Airlines flight from Simferopol, Crimea to Moscow. Its flight path is about 30% longer than it would have been prior to the war. While I have no sympathy for the cover stories and conspiracy theories that have been invented and cultivated in Russia and othe places following the destruction of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 by a Russian missile over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, I do agree that it was reckless for airlines to continue flying over eastern Ukraine that summer when it was a known war zone in which aircraft had been shot down recently.
The obsession with the great circle route may have been a contributing factor to the disaster. I have chatted with pilots of long-distance transport aircraft who describe to me the pleasure, even pride, that they get from knowing that they are flying a great circle route because it is "mathematically most efficient". It's one of those cases where a little knowledge (the engineer's familiarity with some basic mathematical concepts) operates against rationality, efficiency, science, and yes, safety of life and limb. The pilots of MH17 easily could have added a slight "kink" in their flight path to avoid Ukrainian air space entirely. Such a flight path might actually have been more efficient, depending on weather and other conditions, but they apparently chose the trivially easy road: the great circle route generated by their onboard flight-planning computer. Press the button and follow the blinking red dot... And why not? It was a beautiful, sunny day with no worries up there at the tropopause, seven miles above the ground...
I must emphasize that the blame for the slaughter, criminal and moral, falls squarely on the shoulders of those who authorized the fielding and firing of this exceptionally powerful, technologically sophisticated missile --and of course those who pressed the button and actually fired the missile at a civilian airliner. But all air disasters have contributing causes, and that's all I am suggesting here.
The tropopause hangs just below the edge of space, but it is only seven miles above the most sordid realities of the muddy world.
Clockwork Mapping / ReedNavigation.com
Conanicut Island USA
PS: About half of what I have written here is relevant to navigation philosophy. Half is off-topic. Apologies for the latter, but I found that I couldn't address the navigational philosophy issue and leave the rest un-said.