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Vehicle: Airplane: View
Scenic Air Routes   (+19, -2)  [vote for, against]
Which flight/seat for the best show?

I fly regularly enough now that I should be jaded, but I still always get a window seat and enjoy the view.

I'd like to see some type of summary that lists the possible scenic attractions visible from various commercial flights. In many cases, the summary would have to specify which side of the plane would be preferred or required. It could be published as a book, but would be more useful as a web site, since the data could be dynamically updated.

I know there are chartered sightseeing flights, but I want to be able to maximise my viewing opportunities on flights whose primary purpose is just getting from one place to another. I'm also aware that weather sometimes diverts flights from the expected route, but a web site could take weather forecasts into account, and if the weather shifts, that's a chance I'll take. I'd still like to be prepared in case the route is as predicted.

Here's a list of some of the things that are typical of what I'd want to know about in advance:

1) In easterly winds, northbound flights departing Melbourne, Florida fly right over Cape Canaveral. Those seated on the right side of the plane often get good views of the launch pads, sometimes with a space shuttle teed up. Those on the left often get good views of the enormous Vehicle Assembly Building and adjacent shuttle landing strip.

2) On some southbound flights from the eastern U.S. to east-coast cities in mid-to-southern Florida (e.g., New York to Miami), the route runs just off the Florida coast. At sunset on a not-too-cloudy day, those on the west side of the plane can see the Atlantic below and the Gulf of Mexico in the distance as the sun reflects off it, with the entire width of Florida between.

3) At night, from sufficient height, Washington DC can be distinguished because of the distinctive shape of its borders and because the city's lights are a different color from those in the surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia.

4) On overnight flights from the U.S. to Europe, those in 'A' seats have a chance of seeing the aurora borealis. It may be preferable to sleep than to stay up watching for it, but in my experience, flight attendants are delighted when I ask them to have the captain watch for it and to wake me if there's anything to see.
-- beauxeault, Dec 03 2001

for [phoenix]:
choose one and see. Couldn't find Kathmandu, but LA is in there. [lewisgirl, Dec 03 2001, last modified Oct 06 2004]

you can get that kind of information here http://www.airliner...sions/trip_reports/
the board is not just for sightseeing advice, but you will find it here. also try the "civil aviation" board. [mihali, Dec 05 2001, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Aerial views http://www.mapquest...CcQ93lBpjaQmA%3d%3d
Service of maquest. A little bit slow, but very cool. Linked is Cape Canaveral. I wonder if that thing with the big shadow is the Vehicle Assembly Building? [bungston, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

I seem to recall flying Air France from Paris to Houston, and the seats had little screens in the back showing (in addition to movies) a map with the current route and, as we got nearer to Houston, nearby towns and cities marked in. I'm not a regular air traveller, so I don't know how common this sort of display is, and it was more just a case of satisfying "where are we now?" queries, but it's something to build on.
-- pottedstu, Dec 03 2001

Ooh... the Florida one sounds nice.
-- PotatoStew, Dec 03 2001

My grandad was a commercial pilot - I'll ask him for some good ones. He used to like coming in to Newark NY at sunset, I remember. And landing at Kathmandu is apparently not for the fainthearted - you have to aim straight at the mountains and then bank round about 150 degrees to come into the runway.
-- lewisgirl, Dec 03 2001

LA is like that too, no? Except it's skyscrapers, not mountains.
-- phoenix, Dec 03 2001

pottedstu: Some British Airways flights have those on-screen maps too. On my way back from Dubai it helped me look out for Tehran (or at least it would have done, but I was too busy watching the sun rise) and Istanbul.
-- CoolerKing, Dec 03 2001

<now has a They Might Be Giants song stuck in his head due to the last word of the previous annotation...>

I agree...The pilot once pointed out the Grand Canyon while I was on the way to California, and it was cool. I'd love a chance to see the Northern Lights...
-- StarChaser, Dec 03 2001

we call it Blackpool
-- po, Dec 03 2001

I just called up a diagram of LAX. Now the FBI are knocking at the door. I wonder what they want?
-- phoenix, Dec 03 2001

Flying from London to Tokyo is breathtaking. Hours and hours of flying over Siberian mountains with no sign of life, then a small, isolated town or a dead-straight road with a fire by the side of it. Then hours of flying over ice and an ice-locked town hundreds of miles from anything else and then more hours of flying over ice. It's the one flight I've done which (when compared with the London - San Francisco flight) makes the US look small and crowded.
-- hippo, Dec 03 2001

Anyone here ever flown into Kai-Tek (I think it's called) airport in Hong Kong? Unlike most international airports serving major cities, this one is *smack* in the middle of town. On your descent, you'll see -- really close up -- into peoples' apartments, their washing lines, etc. Truly an unparalelled airplane view!
-- snarfyguy, Dec 04 2001

when ascending or descending over Arizona, look at the neighborhoods and see how nice and uniform they looks like something from sim-city.
-- Rampant Dysfunction, Dec 04 2001

But the best bloody country in the world, right mate?
-- CoolerKing, Dec 04 2001

UB is HBGC C+++
-- lewisgirl, Dec 04 2001

Cool idea, beauxeault. My personal fave was flying over the Alps. I also like that bit, about 20 to 30 seconds after take off when everything on the ground has become just small enough to not seem real anymore.
-- DrBob, Dec 04 2001

The M25 and London look fantastic just after take-off or just before landing at Heathrow at night. the streetlights along the motorway are close enough together to give an impression of a ring of fire around the city.

And no "vindaloo" jokes about that last paragraph, please.
-- CoolerKing, Dec 04 2001

I said it before, I'll say it again: Glass-bottom planes.
-- phoenix, Dec 04 2001

Could we have regular sheet metal in the lavatory, phoenix?
-- bristolz, Dec 04 2001

Er, well, since we may pass over the occasional telescope, I guess that's a good idea.
-- phoenix, Dec 04 2001

Thank you, phoenix. I feel better now.
-- bristolz, Dec 04 2001

I'd not feel better being told to "look closely and you can see the old American Airlines fleet".
-- reensure, Dec 04 2001

I just flew home from Florida today and was wishing that there was some way to identify some of the land and water forms I was seeing, and trying to come up with an idea for the HB. You beat me to it. I see by pottedstu's and CoolerKing's entries that some airlines do make an effort to show their routes. waugsqueke's idea of carrying an atlas (or a copy of relevant pages) would work, I guess.
-- TeaTotal, Dec 05 2001

Before I posted this, I had not realized how popular airborne sightseeing is. I thought I was in a decided minority. This week I've given some thought to how I might actually create such a web site, soliciting viewing tips from other fliers and interested pilots. I came to the conclusion that to make it good I'd need programming skills beyond those I possess, and if it became popular, the airlines would do it better on their own sites.
-- beauxeault, Dec 08 2001

Maybe [futurebird] will take up the challenge. (She baked my 'www.Stream Of' idea)
-- phoenix, Dec 08 2001

I flew a new scenic route yesterday: Delta 123 from Cincinatti to Los Angeles flies just south of the Grand Canyon, for a nice view out the right-side windows. The plane's still high enough at this point to also afford a view out the left side of a major impact crater.
-- beauxeault, May 15 2002

One of my personal all-time faves is flying into Sydney on the early-morning flight from LA. Kingsford Smith is south of the city, so if you sit on the right side of the plane, you can see the harbour, Opera House, Harbour Bridge... all the sights are yours for the taking. We flew in on a gorgeous clear morning about 6 am, and it was absolutely breathtaking.

I've also been lucky enough to spy the Northern Lights, from the left-hand side of the plane on a night flight from San Francisco to NYC (the route must have looped north into Canada, I think). I asked the attendant to ask the pilot if that's what it was, hoping to wangle an invite to the cockpit for a better view (those little portholes in coach don't do it justice!) but no dice. And this was way before 9/11! Ah well.
-- ashlingirl, Jul 28 2002

I (when I do not have my child to watch) like to take an atlas along with me when I fly - if you keep track of where you are from takeoff it is generally easy to track where you are using towns, roads, lakes, etc as markers along the way.
-- 5, Jul 28 2002

I never annotated this idea, but it is one of my faves - and it has been over a year since it surfaced. In a way this idea it is similar to those immensely nifty maps of your plane and the world that you can watch on a British Airways flight. Besides towns, volcanoes, lakes etc there are many strange manmade structures it would be neat to be able to ID from the air.
-- bungston, Sep 05 2003

when i was a kid the pilots used to say "well folks if you look out the left window you'll see the st. louis arch" and such. I don't know what happend to that.
-- thejini, Sep 07 2003

yes, please. great idea. +
-- k_sra, Sep 16 2003

The new "aerial view" service (linked) from mapquest takes a step towards baking this fine idea. I wish it were faster, so you could scoot along over the landscape instead of loading it square by square. But I'm not complaining.
-- bungston, Nov 12 2003

random, halfbakery