Polka Dot

The center of the international airline industry is in the middle of rural Poland

June 16, 2013
June 16, 2013

On the edge of a field in rural Poland close to a wooded area is a spot, in all likelihood unmarked, where the international airline industry is in perfect balance. Gmina Miastkowo, Łomża County, Poland is the location of the mathematical center of international airline flights.

A rural community of less than 5,000 people, according to Polish government statistics, it is a location that during World War II served as a battleground for Soviets to face off with Nazis.

Miastkowo falls between Western Europe and Asia: flyover country for Euro-Sino, Euro-Russian, and Amero-Middle Eastern travel alike. If it weren’t for the draw of the Americas this balance point could have fallen in neighboring Belarus to the west, or if there were fewer flights in Asia it might have been farther west, closer to Warsaw.

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Quartz derived this location by calculating the average midpoint of the more than 61,000 international flight routes in the Openflights Database. The database was last updated in December.

Just as the center of a square is the average midpoint of the lines connecting its corners, the center of air travel is the the average midpoint of the routes connecting airports. In Quartz’s model, each airport was counted as many times as there were routes that originated or terminated at that location. Each route was counted as many times as there were airlines that flew it.

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Some of the flights were long, like Sydney to Los Angeles. Others were much shorter, like Luxembourg to Paris. The average distance of every route was 1,639 miles (about the distance of Tel Aviv to Prague), though most are less than 1,110 miles (shorter than a flight from New Orleans to Toronto).

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The longest international flight in the database is the 9,540 mile trip from Newark, New Jersey to Singapore. The shortest is an 11-mile jump from Monaco to Nice, France.

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