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Q: How often are transpolar routes utilized today, and why were they a big deal when first introduced? Why is there no transpolar route over the South Pole for flights from Australia to South America, for example?

— Ric Guy, Mt. Pleasant, Mich.

A: Transpolar routes are increasingly used. They save time and cost on flights from North America and Europe to Asia.

There are numerous challenges to flying transpolar. The lack of airports for diversions, extreme weather and navigation challenges are a few of the considerations. As airlines became more experienced, these challenges became more routine. Now transpolar routes are common.

Flying over Antarctica is even more remote, and the demand is lower. Only four-engine airplanes could fly such a route because of the diversion airport requirement for twin-engine airplanes. I do not know of a scheduled flight that overflies the South Pole.

Q: When crossing the North Pole, are there any interferences with navigation instruments?                

— William, New York

A: No, flight management computers are rigorously tested for any issues crossing the North or South Pole or the international dateline. In service, there is no problem.

Q: Why do some long-haul flights fly over Greenland (or even the Arctic), especially from North America to Asia?                 

— John Smith, Vancouver

A: Some routes from North America fly over or near the North Pole because it is faster than flying the traditional tracks to Asia.

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