So there you are, sitting on the tarmac and waiting for your flight to take off. You were supposed to leave seven minutes ago, so what could possibly taking this long? Do they even know how to fly that thing? Where is the flight attendant? How many planes are flying at any given time, really? As it turns out: a whole hell of a lot.
NATS, a UK air traffic control company, decided to compile data from 48 hours worth of air traffic over Europe. On a typical late July day, there are approximately 30,000 airplanes in Europe’s airspace; a quarter of which are over the UK alone.
The video has been sped up to be about 1440 times faster than real life, reducing 48 hours down to 2 minutes. As you see the blue lights start to blend into one another and show just how crowded the airspace really is, it begins to make perfect sense that air traffic controllers and airline pilots are routinely on the list for most stressful occupations. Each airplane must be accounted for and its trajectory must be expertly guided in order to complete its journey safely.
According to NATS, the distance that is flown over Europe each day is roughly 25 million nautical miles; enough to complete 104 trips to the moon, or orbit the Earth 998 times.
So please, the next time you’re about to participate in the scientific marvel that is human flight, take a moment to appreciate the massive endeavor of controlling that hectic airspace before you complain to the flight attendant.