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Q: Airline Flight Paths ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: Airline Flight Paths
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: wlybrand-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 06 Jun 2005 17:18 PDT
Expires: 06 Jul 2005 17:18 PDT
Question ID: 530126
I fly form San Antonio to Los Angeles and back quite frequently.  I
would like to see a map of the flight path that Southwest 'usually'
takes (usually because I'm sure it changes).  I would then be able to
pull up google maps+satellite and see the landmarks, features, etc
that I've seen from the air and know where and what they are.  I have
been googling for 'flight path' 'traffic control' 'air traffic' and
even visited Southwest's website.  Does anyone know where I can find a
map like this or if it exists?
Subject: Re: Airline Flight Paths
Answered By: byrd-ga on 10 Jun 2005 09:57 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi wlybrand-ga,

In my comment I provided you with a flight plan of the path SW
Airlines "usually" takes between San Antonio and Los Angeles. But
since you specifically asked for a map of the route, I did a little
more checking around, and found some very cool mapping tools that
accept lat/long coordinates instead of just location names, which will
give you a more accurate picture of your route. Most of these tools
require you to have latitude and longitude in decimal format, so I
went ahead and converted the lat/long info from my comment into
decimal for you, thus:

San Antonio, 29.5336944, -98.4697778
LEJON intersection, 30.112867, -99.121967
SHUCK intersection, 30.507361, -101.292881
Ft.Stockton, 30.9156667, -102.9161389
El Paso, 31.8066667, -106.3778056
San Simon, 32.2692450 , -109.2630875
29 Palms, 34.1315972, -115.9458219
Ontario, 33.9183369, -117.5299972
Los Angeles, 33.9425361, -118.4080744

If you'd like to play around sometime with some other routes and
places, here's a converter for converting standard lat/long to decimal

Remember that West longitude and South latitude are always negative. 

Some other tools require Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM)
coordinates instead, so here's a tool to get those numbers: 

And here are the UTM coordinates for your route:

Name, Longitude(x), Latitude(y), Zone, Hemisphere
San Antonio, 551376.4700854371, 3267233.92354047, 14, N
LEJON, 488249.8950254927, 3331298.3122543204, 14, N
SHUCK, 279961.8276731642, 3377243.0531815896, 14, N
Ft.Stockton, 699133.7497986328, 3422116.780787621, 13, N
El Paso, 369580.93073328404, 3519833.0599216195, 13, N
San Simon, 663590.2907608951, 3571604.2122034393, 12, N
29 Palms, 597202.7311336224, 3777249.141856609, 11, N
Ontario, 451008.8550835113, 3753227.8361102296, 11, N
Los Angeles, 369874.9151043745, 3756677.4214261714, 11, N

Here are the mapping tools:
GPS Visualizer 
This site lets you input your coordinates, and then serves up a
detailed topographic map: 
You'll need to download this free viewer to see it:

USA PhotoMaps
This free downloadable software uses images from Microsoft's Terra
Server to create a route map superimposed on an aerial photo. Very
cool, although there *is* a learning curve as far as using it, but the
instructions help a lot.


A form-based simple map generator. It shows topographical details, but
without names of features. Still, easy to use and a nice color output.
I made a map of your route, but couldn't get a usable link to it.
However, it's fairly easy to use:

For the coordinates, copy/past this list:
-98.4697778 29.5336944
-99.121967 30.112867
-101.292881 30.507361
-102.9161389 30.9156667
-106.3778056 31.8066667
-109.2630875 32.2692450 
-115.9458219 34.1315972
-117.5299972 33.9183369
-118.4080744 33.9425361

And for the labels, use this one:
-98.5 29.5 8 0 3 3 San Antonio
-99.1 30.1 8 0 3 3 LEJON
-101.3 30.5 8 0 3 3 SHUCK
-102.9 30.9 8 0 3 3 Ft.Stockton
-106.4 31.8 8 0 3 3 El Paso
-109.3 32.3 8 0 3 3 San Simon
-115.9 34.1 8 0 3 2 29 Palms
-117.5 33.9 8 0 3 4 Ontario
-118.4 33.9 8 0 3 3 Los Angeles

Finally, here's a link to Microsoft's TerraServer, which has free
satellite images of the world, though apparently not the option to
plot a route. Still it does accept coordinates, and has nice images,
so might be worth a look: 

Hope you have fun finding and identifying images of the terrain over
which you're flying. One interesting note: aside from a turn to the
northwest right after takeoff, and another to the west before landing,
the route in general is nearly a straight as-the-crow-flies line
between San Antonio and LA, in a general WNW direction.

Additional search terms I used for finding maps: 
[free online route map tool latitude longitude]
[free aerial maps online]

Best wishes,

Clarification of Answer by byrd-ga on 10 Jun 2005 15:12 PDT
Hi Wlybrand-ga,

It just occurred to me I hadn't given you the reverse of the flight
plan from the sim data, i.e. Los Angeles to San Antonio. Though not
significantly, it does differ some, so thought I'd pass that along
just for completeness' sake.  Here it is:


KLAX = Los Angeles Lat/Long 33-56-33.1301N / 118-24-29.0680W 
Decimal: 33.9425361, -118.4080744

TRM = Palm Springs, CA Lat/Long: 33-37-36.0010N / 116-09-34.7500W 
Decimal: 33.6266669, -116.1596528 

J169 = Jet route 169

BLH = Blythe, CA  Lat/Long: 33-37-08.9860N / 114-43-00.7550W 
Decimal: 33.6191628, -114.7168764 

KOFFA = intersection in AZ 71 mi. East of Blythe, CA 33-27-48.930N /
Decimal: 33.463333, -113.348889

J50 = Jet route 50

GBN = Gila Bend, AZ Lat/Long: 32-53-15.1680N / 112-43-11.5860W 
Decimal: 32.8875467, -112.7198850 

SSO = San Simon, AZ Lat/Long 32-16-09.282N/109-15-47.115W
Decimal: 32.2692450, -109.2630875

J50 = Jet route 50

ELP = El Paso, TX  Lat/Long 31-48-24.0000N / 106-22-40.1000W
Decimal: 31.8066667, -106.3778056

J2 = Jet route 2

FST = Ft. Stockton, TX  Lat/Long 30-54-56.4000N / 102-54-58.1000W
Decimal: 30.9156667, -102.9161389

CSI1. = Center Point 1 Arrival Procedure: From Ft. Stockton, TX to 
  CSI (Center Point VORTAC ? radio transmitter) Kerrville, TX 
Lat/Long 29-55-20.383N / 099-12-52.229W Decimal: 29.9223286 -99.2145081
  BENEY (intersection) 29-50-19.760N / 098-59-26.020W Decimal:
29.838611, -98.990556
  MEDIN (intersection) 29-48-25.390N / 098-54-00.810W Decimal:
29.806944, -98.900000
  REUBE (intersection) 29-45-17.740N / 098-45-35.670W Decimal:
29.754722, -98.759722
  AN 368 (Alamo NDB ? radio transmitter) NW of San Antonio 29-36-27.315N / 
     098-34-10.871W Decimal: 29.6075875 -98.5696864

KSAT = San Antonio, TX  Lat/Long 29-32-01.3000N / 098-28-11.2000W
Decimal: 29.5336944, -98.4697778

Blue skies,
wlybrand-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
I couldn't have asked for a better answer.  It was a hard question as well.

Subject: Re: Airline Flight Paths
From: byrd-ga on 08 Jun 2005 13:42 PDT
Hi wlybrand-ga,

Actually, you don't need to go buy a lot of charts or flight sim
software to get the map you want. And as Omnivorous-ga said, even if
you did purchase them, aeronautical charts of the type likely used by
SWA aren't going to have the topographical features you want.

But there is a way to go about finding the information you want.  Here?s how: 

First of all, here's an online flight simulator site that has a .zip
file containing standard Southwest Airlines flight plans, current as
of May 2005: You can download them to your
computer, then open them as a text file, which is what I did.

These flight plans are probably compiled from historical flight data,
or flight tracking information, etc. The source isn't really important
for your purpose, nor is the fact that they may vary somewhat from
actual routes. As you indicated in your question, you're already aware
that flight paths can and do vary from  time to time.  However, I can
verify that the flight plan for your route contained in this .zip is
pretty close, because I've also flown that route several times.  Well,
not exactly, since I've flown out of Austin, not San Antonio, but it's
close enough, and I recognize the flight path as being a pretty
standard one for SWA.

The only tricky part about the flight plan is being able to translate
it, but I can help you there. First of all, here's the flight plan:


Looks confusing, but it's not that bad when you take it apart. Each of
the collections of numbers and letters indicates either an airport, an
airway (jet route in this case), an intersection, or a navaid (radio
transmitter), or the name of a procedure that contains some of these.
The location and lat/long of all of these can be found at  The trick is to know what you're looking up,
whether airport, navaid or fix.  Here's how this one works out.

KSAT = San Antonio, TX Lat/Long 29-32-01.3000N / 098-28-11.2000W

BOWIE3 = the name of a departure procedure that takes you northwest
from the airport to an intersection called LEJON (just north of
Kerrville, TX) Lat/Long 30-06-46.310N / 099-07-19.080W , from there
taking a left turn to the southwest, then a right turn to the
northwest to

SHUCK = (intersection SW of San Angelo, TX and SE of Ft. Stockton, TX)
Lat/Long 30-30-26.500N/101-17-34.370W from here picking up

J138 = the name of a high altitude jet route that will take you over

FST = Ft. Stockton, TX Lat/Long 30-54-56.4000N / 102-54-58.1000W  thence via

J2 = jet route 2 to 

ELP = El Paso, TX Lat/Long 31-48-24.0000N / 106-22-40.1000W , thence via

J50 = jet route 50, to 

SSO = a radio transmitter (or VORTAC) located at San Simon, AZ 
Lat/Long 32-16-09.282N/109-15-47.115W , thence via

J4 = jet route 4, to

TNP = Twenty Nine Palms, CA Lat/Long 34-07-53.7500N / 115-56-44.9590W thence via 

PDZ4 or TNP.PDZ4 Arrival = the name of an arrival procedure to
Southern California (or SoCal) airspace. I don't have that procedure
in front of me since my chart subscription doesn't include California,
however, the procedure will take you to another VORTAC called PDZ,
which is at Ontario, CA  Lat/Long 33-55-06.013N/117-31-47.990W , and
from there into

KLAX = Los Angeles Lat/Long 33-56-33.1301N / 118-24-29.0680W 

Ok, like I said, this may change slightly. But since you'll be flying
at very high altitudes, some variation in navaids or fixes ought not
to make a whole lot of difference to you in terms of geographic
features and topography. If you pull up Google maps, and input the
names of the cities over which you'll be flying, i.e.

San Antonio, TX
Kerrville, TX
Fort Stockton, TX
El Paso, TX
San Simon, AZ
Twenty Nine Palms, CA
Ontario, CA
Los Angeles, CA

you ought to be able to locate a fairly good route map and satellite
photos. If you have access to a GPS or other map service that lets you
input latitude and longitude, then you can get a more exact route.

For your information, I used the search term [southwest airlines
"route map" OR routes OR "flight plans"] to fine the site that had the
actual flight plan, then simply went to AirNav, which I already had in
my bookmarks, to get the rest of the info.

I hope you're able to have fun with this. I know I did, thanks for the
idea! I think I'll use it next time I need to fly somewhere by
airlines. Make looking out the window a lot more interesting!

Best wishes, and happy flying!
Subject: Re: Airline Flight Paths
From: omnivorous-ga on 10 Jun 2005 10:19 PDT
Wlybrand --

There's actually a much easier way to see SAT-LAX flight paths, though
it has its own limitations.  And realize too, that though Byrd-GA has
given you one routing, Southwest Airlines dispatch will vary that
route for things such as traffic, turbulence and particularly, winds
aloft.  These changes in flight routes will make dramatic differences,
sometimes flying as far south as the Mexican border.

First, you want to do the following:
*  go to Southewest's page to get the flight numbers of SAT-LAX flights

Second, a travel company called runs a "Flight
Tracker" service that you can find on the link below.  The graphical
flight tracker will give you some topographic information and the
locations of major cities.  NOTE: you can only track active flights,
but there are so many between SAT and LAX that you'll almost always
see one in the air.

A second caution on using this page is that Southwest flights may have
more than one number on the schedule, but they'll only file one of
those numbers with Air Traffic Control:

The Java applet on the page will update for a period of time and you
should be able to print out the maps and ATC data, which includes
airspeed and altitude.

Easier than programming GPS waypoints!  Oh, and don't forget to look for Area 54.

Best regards,

Subject: Re: Airline Flight Paths
From: byrd-ga on 10 Jun 2005 11:40 PDT
Hi wlybrand-ga,

Thank you very much for the kind words, five stars and very generous
tip! I'm so glad you were pleased!

Also, I agree that using flight tracking is a good idea, though it'll
take you the length of a flight to get the entire track, and then
you'll still likely need to input data into a map site or software to
get the topographical detail and landmarks, etc. you're wanting. But
it certainly can help you collect a wider range of routes over a
shorter period of time than it probably would take waiting for more
updates to the sim data. Here's another flight tracker for you with a
nice zoom feature:

By the time you're finished, you're going to be quite an expert on
Southwestern US geography! Happy flying and mapping! And thanks again!

Subject: Re: Airline Flight Paths
From: adamschneider-ga on 28 Jun 2005 18:49 PDT
"byrd-ga" mentioned GPS Visualizer's waypoint map form... there's
another page on GPS Visualizer that will actually plot a great circle
route between two points:

Of course, airplanes don't really fly great circle routes, but it's an
interesting exercise at any rate.

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