Global Flight Paths That Light Up The World


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Michael Markieta, a transportation planner at global engineering and design firm Arup, has spent the past year developing visualisations of flight paths crossing the globe.

Markieta began to work on the visualisations in his spare time using geographical information systems (GIS) technology to create “maps” of the data. Markieta used blue and white lines for shorter routes, and darker shades for long-haul flights. There are currently more than 58,000 flight paths crossing the globe, but each individual airport services only a limited number of others.

The busiest European airport is Frankfurt International in Germany, with 235 direct flight destinations.

The busiest US airport is Atlanta, but the Washington-New York-Boston corridor appears to be the most travelled route.

Displaying 58,000 flight paths becomes difficult when multiple paths overlap, particularly in dense areas such as central Europe and the eastern United States. There’s no “base layer” tracing the outlines of countries or continents. Instead, the flight routes themselves sketch the edges of the world’s major land masses, because so many people live in and travel between coastal cities.

The shape of Africa is instantly recognisable. The outline of the country is created by the flight paths across it. Egypt, on the far right, was the most popular destination on the continent. Spain’s Canary Islands on the top left appear brighter than major African cities on the map. The bright white dot at the bottom of the image is Johannesburg.

Flight paths across Asia and India. In countries where fewer flights land and take off, the paths create an outline of those countries. The densely populated, white section in this image show the flights to and from Beijing in China. Flights to other airports across the region are more equally proportioned.


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