Keeping Aircraft Safe without Radar: The North Atlantic Tracks

  • Published on May 14, 2018
  • Over the North Atlantic, there's no radar coverage: so how do air traffic controllers keep planes safe? The answer, at least in part, can be found at Nav Canada's Gander Area Control Centre in Newfoundland. The North Atlantic Tracks are like freeway lanes in the sky, if freeway lanes were stacked a thousand feet on top of each other.
    More about Nav Canada and the tracks, and the new standards they're introducing:
    Edited by Michelle Martin (@mrsmmartin)
    I'm at
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Comments • 661

  • Tom Scott
    Tom Scott  Year ago +1205

    If the lighting and shots seem a little odd here, it's because -- for good reason -- I wasn't allowed to film too close to the air traffic controllers. They're a bit busy.

    • kairon156
      kairon156 Year ago

      You said Newfoundland correctly. I'm more proud of this than I should be. :D

    • Jordan Smith
      Jordan Smith Year ago

      I hope you had a good time on the rock. It's was an awesome suprise that you did a video in my home. Did you get screeched in when you was here my buddy?

    • jlammetje
      jlammetje Year ago

      FukU2222 that question has already been answered in this very comment section...

    • FukU2222
      FukU2222 Year ago

      How was this comment posted 5 days ago but the video posted yesterday????

    • Chicken Tendie
      Chicken Tendie Year ago +1

      I can't believe that my favorite youtuber was here in Newfoundland.

  • Hairy Pooter
    Hairy Pooter Month ago

    Of course it’s the most Newfie guy ever.

  • enterthekraken
    enterthekraken 2 months ago

    They don't fly the shortest distance, it's wind optimised so that they can take advantage of the jet stream. Hence the East and West bound tracks being so far apart.

  • Jay RadZ
    Jay RadZ 6 months ago

    I’ve finally found it!! Something interesting in Newfoundland!! 😄

  • Dan Dart
    Dan Dart 7 months ago

    Are we talking about ADS-B too?

  • KekMason
    KekMason 7 months ago

    0:52 I can't place this guys accent. It's like a weird mix of Canadian, American, and Scottish

  • JohnnyDaPrankstaGangsta

    Why is no one talking about how awkward it must have been for Tom to be standing in an airplane talking to himself. I know the camera is there but it still must have been a sweaty situation.

  • Tu Chenz
    Tu Chenz 9 months ago

    i know the answer, its sonar

  • Zal Motafram
    Zal Motafram 10 months ago

    Do pilots listen to the TCAS or the Air Traffic controller when it comes to an emergency?

  • Justice For Seth Rich WWG1WGA

    Humans are so awesome. The best creatures!

  • Justice For Seth Rich WWG1WGA

    This is amazing

  • EebstertheGreat
    EebstertheGreat 10 months ago

    Tom, do you have any insight on the accent of the Nav Canada controller in the video? Is that a typical Newfoundland accent? It's not something I hear every day. It has many features of RP, when contrasted with Gen. Am.

  • mspenrice
    mspenrice 11 months ago

    Interesting ... I knew there were radar dead spots in the world, but never thought that the North Atlantic would be one of them. Surely there is at least military radar in the US looking for incoming -Soviet- Russian planes and missiles that might come from that direction? Though maybe they're not willing to share their data with civilians... it might even preclude the installation of any civilian long-range/OTH scanning radar setup because of potential interference...?
    I expect the radio transmitters mixed with (the surprisingly slow uptake of) GPS will eventually make the need for it obsolete, though, as planes can check in every couple of minutes with a quick chirp containing their tailcode, lat/long, speed/heading and altitude. Much like MH370 was revealed to have done (though, "phoning home" to Boeing rather than informing ATC in any way) for quite a long time after going off-track and off-radar...

  • RKBock
    RKBock 11 months ago

    Thank you so very much for the subtitles!

  • Mateus Figueiredo
    Mateus Figueiredo 11 months ago

    This video is not very clear. What is the problem with there being no radar, how do planes normally behave when there is radar, how to they talk to the airplanes? Too much information, not decently explained.

  • Creamy Pasta
    Creamy Pasta 11 months ago

    Cheaper going to Preswick! But I guess they'd never let you in

  • Mark Castro-Garcia
    Mark Castro-Garcia 11 months ago

    Wow - the Newfoundland accent also sounds like the West Country accent in England

  • Joshua Ritchie
    Joshua Ritchie 11 months ago

    Do motaways in the sky

  • Chloe 24601
    Chloe 24601 Year ago

    theirs a great musical about gander Newfoundland called "Come From Away"

  • D1V 1K
    D1V 1K Year ago

    I’m so confused about his accent. It jumps from some American accent to an Irish accent. It’s weird to me.

  • JetPhox
    JetPhox Year ago

    "Where he's going to be to." Little Newfoundlander dialect-ism there.

  • Ryan Ryan
    Ryan Ryan Year ago

    this is a question i’ve had for soooo long, because i’ve noticed the tracks through the flightradar24 map and i’ve always wondered why sometimes there we’re there in that specific pattern and sometimes they weren’t

  • Ashish Gupta
    Ashish Gupta Year ago

    What accent is that?

  • kairon156
    kairon156 Year ago

    It might just be me projecting but I can tell he was trying to hold back some Newfoundland slang.

  • Tepp Sco
    Tepp Sco Year ago

    Why does this guy wound West Country every now and again?

  • Kate Peterson
    Kate Peterson Year ago

    Wow, you pronounced Newfoundland correctly! I'm impressed! Short-term visitors usually don't get it right :D

  • T Duke Perry
    T Duke Perry Year ago

    I genuinely wonder, if there was no air traffic control systems of any kind and it was an absolute free-for-all, what are the odds of any collision at all? I assume there are a lot of factors in this, including visibility conditions and sheer volume of traffic, but I genuinely think it would be an interesting question. Because if planes just went where they wanted, and didn't have to go over specific paths, but had the whole sky to choose where they wanted to go, there might not be enough planes where two of them in the same space at the same time is even remotely likely. Probably no more than a 1% chance.
    I see the only problem with this theory being the fact that they plan their routes along certain paths for the sake of efficiency more than anything, so they wouldn't be randomly distributed.
    I'm not saying we should get rid of ATC because it's useless or anything, I'm just thinking out loud.

    • T Duke Perry
      T Duke Perry Year ago

      Okay, but is that the actual number of this bizarre scenario? Because in that case, let's say it's 0.001%! There's a lot of sky!

    • Nikola16789
      Nikola16789 Year ago

      1% of 31750 flights expected today through eurocontrol atfcm network is 317 aircraft crashes just in Europe. It would be disaster. We have mid-air collision every now and then even with ATC and TCAS.

  • Needn
    Needn Year ago

    Wait this video was on the east coast I didn't realize it!

  • Dunestorm
    Dunestorm Year ago

    All the fools that believe aircrafts are less safe than road vehicles should definitely watch this!

  • Gregory G Harding

    tom, i cant beleive you were in my back yard and i didnt even know.

  • hiqwertyhi
    hiqwertyhi Year ago

    YOU FIXED YOUR PRONUNCIATION OF NEWFOUNDLAND! (I'm sure it was easy for you, as someone who can *understand* the subtleties of it)
    * I'm sure some newfie will complain that you still got it wrong but here in Nova Scotia that's how most of us say it

  • McRocket
    McRocket Year ago

    Very interesting. I did not know about this...and I lived in Gander for a few months.

  • mena3976
    mena3976 Year ago

    what do you British people think of the Newfie accent?

  • jammerthegreat
    jammerthegreat Year ago

    I'm that guy who claps when a plane lands, HI!

  • Ian Colquhoun
    Ian Colquhoun Year ago

    The tracks are 4 dimensional.... Time.

  • Andrew Shevchenko

    what's up with like/dislike ratio on this video?

  • TheTransforcer
    TheTransforcer Year ago

    I’ve never thought about that- that is so cool!

  • 0MindSwept0
    0MindSwept0 Year ago

    This video was kind of plane, but it still gets a like

  • Kris
    Kris Year ago +3

    Is that what a Newfoundland accent sounds like? I’m very familiar with the more common Canadian accent but I’ve never heard this accent before. It sounds like an Irish person trying to mimic an American accent. And very subtle too, I almost didn’t notice it.

    • Kris
      Kris Year ago +1

      That's fascinating to me. I'm from Michigan so half of my family is from and lives in Canada. I'm very familiar with the standard accent as well as Quebecois. I never knew Newfoundland had a distinct accent. So cool.

    • kairon156
      kairon156 Year ago +1

      Actually I suspect he's talking more slow than he normally would which might be where the American accent comes to play.
      Newfoundlanders being Canadian tend to be polite when we know our accent will be heard by non Newfies and slow down.

  • L Fraser
    L Fraser Year ago

    glad you finally made it to Canada.

  • Klaevin
    Klaevin Year ago

    so, basically... it takes _this_ to make sure planes don't crash into eachother. why would you be able to avoid collisions if you had your own personal plane, I mean... flying car? you can't that's why flying cars are a terrible idea.

  • Nikhill Rao
    Nikhill Rao Year ago

    I feel less safe knowing that Canadians are the ones keeping me safe on transatlantic flights

  • saberline152
    saberline152 Year ago

    they still use written notes?

  • Darren Baker
    Darren Baker Year ago

    Airplane! Where ya to?

  • Oek Foh
    Oek Foh Year ago

    Oh cool

  • EDLJ
    EDLJ Year ago

    Super cool

  • Ninpeg
    Ninpeg Year ago

    That is the most tame newfie accebt ive heard in a long time

  • The Fare Player
    The Fare Player Year ago

    That accent is amazing!

  • Steve Sheppard
    Steve Sheppard Year ago

    Love the monitors being used to show paper maps. Made me smile.

  • Steve Sheppard
    Steve Sheppard Year ago

    Does anyone else think that that Canadian air traffic controller, sounds like an American with a Yorkshire twinge??

  • Brad Smith
    Brad Smith Year ago

    68 Flatearthers

  • FukU2222
    FukU2222 Year ago

    Thanks for popping by to The Rock, Tom!

  • formerly 987946216430

    Right on, welcome to Canada Tom. Hope you have a great time in NL! Amazing hospitality, I trust you will be "Screached In" while you're there. Cheers from PEI Canada, Bryan.

  • Carmen
    Carmen Year ago +1

    Please do a collab with wendover productions, that would be awesome😀

    • Carmen
      Carmen Year ago

      And while we are at it: i would like to see a video about the real story about „Come From Away“, maybe next time when you’re in Gander?

  • petrichor
    petrichor Year ago

    Why don't the pilots just look out the window and steer around other planes in the sky?

  • Christopher Stone

    You were in Newfoundland!? Hope you had a good time here.

  • Nighthawk
    Nighthawk Year ago

    radar is just a way for planes and ground crews to detect planes and ground crews (or obstacles).
    if you have a SATELLITE, reading TRANSPONDERS, on both the planes and the ground stations, and you know the topography, that you mapped with a SATELLITE..... why do you need the radar for!? XD

  • fsmoura
    fsmoura Year ago

    Sounds like a good job to show up drunk at

  • Jarod997
    Jarod997 Year ago

    Yea Canada! Not just great Maple Syrup. =8o)

  • kelvin kielley
    kelvin kielley Year ago

    "we can kinda predict where he is going to be to" definitely newfie

  • Sam N.
    Sam N. Year ago +2

    Given all the comments on the Newfoundland accent, I suspect Tom's going to have to do a video about the Newfoundland accent now because apparently lots of people didn't know about it.

  • Monkeyb00y
    Monkeyb00y Year ago

    Thanks for this video. During a Field Trip for Math Club, we went to the Air Traffic Controller building and was able to watch them work their magic. That was almost 20 years ago, long before TVclip. Amazing stuff.

  • Boekoe
    Boekoe Year ago

    But...the world is flat

  • Philip Vels
    Philip Vels Year ago

  • Lassigamer
    Lassigamer Year ago

    New Finland? I hate those copycats, they stole our country's name!

  • GeorgeSkates
    GeorgeSkates Year ago

    Oy oy Newfoundland, wasn’t expecting that 🤙

  • Yash Tibrewala
    Yash Tibrewala Year ago

    Kind of a stupid question - Why can't ATC use GPS to track airplanes? GPS uses satellites, right? Don't see why they wouldn't work over the sea.

  • Faradrim
    Faradrim Year ago

    why don't they just use GPS?

  • Vennificus
    Vennificus Year ago


  • Stuart Mills
    Stuart Mills Year ago +1

    You're treading over wendover territory buddy.

  • Bálint Nemes
    Bálint Nemes Year ago


  • Ricardo Nuno Silva

    Congratulations, @Tom Scott, on another awesome video, as usual :)
    *Interesting, concise, clear, informative.* 5*!

  • Pook365
    Pook365 Year ago

    I'm a bit confused as to why the location of the aircraft is not reported continuously and automatically by satellites relaying on board GPS data.
    There are centimetre range accurate GPS that operate to 50km altitude.
    Does anyone have any ideas?

  • Merling Stoss
    Merling Stoss Year ago

    many more planes disappear under the new system, eh?

  • Benji
    Benji Year ago

    Nah ah, because like...the world is, like, flat...*swallows own tongue, chokes, dies*

  • RootedHat
    RootedHat Year ago

    Planes can also piggy back the transponder of the plane in front of them so if all fails planes knoe where _each other_ are.

  • cityraildude
    cityraildude Year ago

    What about the Pacific?

    • QuassSeabass
      QuassSeabass Year ago

      The Pacific has a couple of similar systems, but on a larger scale. I don't know it in its completeness but I know that there's an FSS centre in Australia and I believe another in Hawaii. It's similar in the Indian ocean, too

  • Kreston Kurotani
    Kreston Kurotani Year ago

    Am i the only one who did not understand a thing?

  • Calvin Mills
    Calvin Mills Year ago

    For a Canadian, he sure says "miles" and "feet" a lot...

    • Calvin Mills
      Calvin Mills Year ago

      I don't think anything should ever be chalked up to "the way it is" the United States using imperial is the cause for a (metric) ton of accidents due to poor conversion. If every industry made the switch to metric I think we'd all be better off

    • QuassSeabass
      QuassSeabass Year ago

      That's aviation for you. Everything outside of Russia is done in nautical miles, knots and feet. It's just the way it is.

  • Jared Busse
    Jared Busse Year ago +7

    Grade 9 Take you kid to work day I was at a Nav Canada. My dad organized it as the company he works for works with their facilities out west, and he had plans to be at the facility all day. Got to spend part of the day on tour, and talking to these guys. Going in the operations room, and doing all sorts of cool stuff. Though this was well over a decade ago. Still a very memorable day. Thanks Dad! As soon as I saw the Nav Canada sign, my face lit up! Thanks Tom!

  • Dan Lyle
    Dan Lyle Year ago

    I love this guy's accent, it sounds amazing!

  • pixel girl
    pixel girl Year ago

    Where we're going, we... _do_ need roads?

  • Mark Small
    Mark Small Year ago

    Hey Tom, cool video. And welcome back to Canada.

  • R.B.
    R.B. Year ago +1

    That dude seems intelligent. Comforting to think the people that control our safety are intelligent.

  • andymcl92
    andymcl92 Year ago

    As someone from near Glasgow, I'm trying to work out if people would have found the Newfoundland accent or the Prestwick accent harder to understand.

  • edmonton20084
    edmonton20084 Year ago

    I like how he could have probably gone more easily to their Scottish counterparts but came all the way to Canada instead.

  • Jesus Gonzalez
    Jesus Gonzalez Year ago +19

    Lufthansa names its airplanes after German towns.
    With two exceptions.
    During 9/11 all flights in US airspace were grounded and incoming flights rerouted. Naturally that left many, many passengers stranded. Gander was among those communities that had to accommodate the most grounded passengers. And they did it with amazing hospitality. Lufthansa thus named one of their jets "Gander" and another "Halifax"

    • kairon156
      kairon156 Year ago

      I knew about the hospitality thing but I didn't realize there were planes named after Canadian Cities.

  • Plum_ Pie
    Plum_ Pie Year ago

    why no GPS? honestly why not? put a GPS tracker on every bit of an aircraft and then you can never have another event like MH370

    • Plum_ Pie
      Plum_ Pie Year ago

      sorry if my logic is flawed here but cant you get handheld GPS devices, meaning you could very easily have a battery backup that runs the GPS transmitters in case of power outage. not sure how to solve bandwidth but still one GPS transmitter per plane doesnt seem like it would be too hard seeing as there are millions of devices already using GPS with not extra cost for the bandwidth used.

    • QuassSeabass
      QuassSeabass Year ago

      1) That's an insanely high level of bandwidth. Think about how many aircraft are in the air at any one time, all sending data at eachother. 2) You're only moving the problem back one step. If an aircraft loses electrics outside of radar coverage, then there's no GPS signal so nothing really changes

  • Ned
    Ned Year ago

    I'm confused. Is it just an estimate?

    • Ned
      Ned Year ago

      QuassSeabass how they track planes with no radar

    • QuassSeabass
      QuassSeabass Year ago

      Is what just an estimate?

  • xxxxxrandom
    xxxxxrandom Year ago

    I always imagined that planes would send real time GPS location info via satellite to air traffic control systems.

    • QuassSeabass
      QuassSeabass Year ago +1

      Normally aircraft show their locations with something called a Secondary Surveillance Radar, but outside of radar coverage that isn't possible. Satellite position updates are becoming more common as the acurracy of GPS data increases but we're a while away from those yet

  • LudvigIndestrucable

    More info on that accent. It sounds like Norfolk mixed with TIA

  • Matt Smillie
    Matt Smillie Year ago +1

    Wendover Productions

  • Cesar Castillo
    Cesar Castillo Year ago +1

    It smells like Wendover here

  • Pandaman
    Pandaman Year ago

    I wonder how many takes Tom had to go through before convincing the newfies to use their mainlander accent. You can almost understand what they're saying.

    • Οδοιπόρος
      Οδοιπόρος Year ago

      Judge Pandaman, it did take me a little while to figure out what he meant by e-span.

  • Zimmby
    Zimmby Year ago

    I love that most of the comments are about how unique our accent is xD This was cool to see! I had no idea that my home province served such an important role in aviation!

  • Niriel
    Niriel Year ago

    Do airplanes have GPS? I remember GPS not working for high-altitude or high-speed things, to avoid being used by missiles.

    • QuassSeabass
      QuassSeabass Year ago

      Planes don't travel that high or that fast

  • BunniBuu
    BunniBuu Year ago

    This guy has the strongest Canadian accent I have ever heard

  • 607
    607 Year ago

    Very nice!

  • Dead Beat Bert
    Dead Beat Bert Year ago

    What a brilliant accent. It’s like Canadian combined with English West Country.
    ...and now I forgot what the video was about.

  • Deadite
    Deadite Year ago

    Huh... you were 2 hours away from me.