Flight paths and great circles

A common route for flights between LAX Airport and DXB Airport is shown.

Flight route between LAX and DBX (ATPL).

The route is first projected onto a two-dimensional map before animating to the three-dimensional shape of a globe.

A two-dimensional map animating into a three-dimensional globe.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but when a straight line on a globe is plotted onto a equirectangular map, it can appear as though it creates an arc. The example route appears to curve on the flat projection. Once transitioned to the globe, the line is shown to be taking a direct path.

A preview of an interactive 3D model showing flight paths and great circles.

Note: The equirectangular projection is not used for navigation, it is used here for illustrative purposes.

Closeup of a pin and route line on a globe.