Why Planes Usually Don’t Fly Over South Pole

Air traffic density is not the same in all parts of the world. In some places, such as in European airspace, the skies are extremely crowded, while in areas such as Tibet, South Pole even planes don’t fly usually.

Another point where planes are not seen much is Antarctica; namely the south polar region. Unlike the north polar region, which is preferred especially for flights between Asia and North America, it is not possible to come across passenger planes over Antarctica. So what is the reason for this? Why don’t many planes fly over the south pole?

South Pole
South Pole

The “polar region guide” published by the FAA on March 5, 2001, sets out a number of conditions that airlines must meet for aircraft that will pass through regions north of 78° north latitudes and south of 60° south latitudes:

– Determination of alternative airports to be used in case of an emergency landing on the route,

– An operational plan on how to ensure the safety and evacuation of passengers and crew in such a situation,

– Closely monitoring the temperature of the fuel throughout the flight,

– Active communication systems (VHF, HF and satellite link),

– Flight crews must receive special training for very cold weather conditions. And have two sets of special clothing to be used in situations that require them to exit the aircraft in the said region,

– The magnetically unstable regions close to the pole point, using the true heading in the compass for navigation purposes.

South Pole Flight 2
South Pole

When we look at it in this context, we see that the basic rule that makes the south pole difficult for passenger planes is ETOPS. According to the ETOPS rule, twin-engine airplanes must make an emergency landing within a certain period of time when one of their engines fails. Therefore, airports to be used in emergencies are also taken into account when drawing flight routes. It does not seem possible to draw a route through Antarctica by following the ETOPS rule. Because even for the Airbus A350, which has an ETOPS time of 370 minutes, a significant part of this cold continent is out of coverage.

However, the main factor that makes flying over the south pole unnecessary, no matter how technically difficult, is that this region is extremely inefficient from a commercial point of view. This airspace between South America, Africa and Australia is little used for commercial flights. Therefore, there is no need to make any attempt to overcome the technical requirements.