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Posted on Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Dave!Hello from the future.

I am posting this entry a day early because most of my September 22 will be spent in a metal tube being hurled across the Pacific Ocean.

And not in a good way.

To understand why the flight to Australia sucks so bad for me, it's helpful to remember that, despite what you might have heard, the earth is round. Airplanes use this little-known fact to their advantage when plotting a course so that they fly the least amount of miles in the shortest amount of time. This kind of thing is known as "The Great Circle" routing. As an example, if I were flying to Amsterdam over in DutchyLand, the pilot would fly over Northern Canada and Greenland like so...

Seattle to Amsterdam on the Great Circle Mapper!
Awesome map courtesy of the The Great Circle Mapper!

The above journey is about 4900 miles (7890 km) compared to the over 6000 miles (9650 km) it would take to fly along the latitude lines straight across a map...

Seattle to Amsterdam Longitude Flight
Map courtesy of Google Maps!

The problem with Australia is that there's no "Great Circle" route to take. This can be confirmed on The Great Circle Mapper by typing in my SEA-LAX-SYD route like so...

Seattle to LAX to Sydney on The Great Circle Mapper!

Since the curvature of the earth can't help us here, it's about 7500 miles (12050 km) from LAX to Sydney direct.

Which is a 15 hour flight.

And considerably longer than my previous longest flight of 5030 miles (8095 km) from Istanbul to Newark.


I suppose it wouldn't be too bad if you were flying in "World Business Class" with lay-flat seats you can sleep on... but to buy an upgradable ticket would have cost me three times as much money plus a big bundle of airline miles. So I booked a coach ticket and used my frequent flier status to get a free upgrade to Delta's new "Economy Comfort Class" seating. It apparently offers 4-inches more legroom and 50% more recline over the "Economy Discomfort Class" seats you get from a regular coach ticket.

Still not a fun way to spend 13-1/2 hours, but it's better than nothing.

But the important thing to focus on is that I'm off to Australia, which is someplace I've never been.

That plus a handful of sleeping pills might just keep me sane for the flight Down Under.

Categories: Travel 2011Click To It: Permalink


  1. Guv says:

    Very Exciting .. it will be worth the wait! 🙂

  2. ssp says:

    I’m sure you’ll manage.

    I still think the problem is that the Pacific Ocean is pretty damn huge…

    Enjoy Australia.

  3. Sybil Law says:

    I really hope you have a relaxing flight with no majorly annoying assholes, and extra room!
    Looking forward to your fabulous pictures!

  4. Ren says:

    Isn’t it less that there is no great circle route and more that our Mercator projection maps simply don’t distort that particular route so much? (I believe the distortion that is present is responsible for the slight S-shape seen in the route.)

    Have a great trip! I visited Australia (for business) several years ago and enjoyed it even though I didn’t really get to see very much of it (Adelaide, almost exclusively).

  5. the muskrat says:

    I thought for sure you’d use miles to get to the front on a long flight like this one, but I guess the extra 4” will have to suffice instead. I made it to Iraq in the middle of two giant soldiers in coach on a plane with a barely working air conditioning system, and I turned out okay. So will you!

  6. Jim says:

    Oooh, 50% more recline! 4 inches now!

    I flew V Australia for the LAX/SYD leg a couple years ago. It really didn’t come off as any worse than SEA/AMD.

  7. Göran says:

    Wishing you a spectauclar vacation! 🙂

  8. Nenette says:

    My sympathies – we do 15+ hours from Winnipeg to Manila whenever we visit. We have stopovers at Vancouver and Narita, but the pacific flight in between requires a super-loaded mp3 player and heavy sedation.

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