Source: Aero, no. 16, October 2001.
(Detailed PDF Map)
New York / Hong Kong Air Routes: Conventional and Polar
The advantage of the North Pole as a shortcut is evident but technical and geopolitical changes prevented the full usage of polar routes for commercial transportation. With the introduction of long range aircrafts such as the Boeing 747 and 777 and the Airbus A340, which have ranges exceeding 13,000 km, nonstop transpolar flights became a possibility. It is however the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s that marked the geopolitical possibility to use the arctic as an intercontinental air route.
The older, more circuitous routings between Asia and North America, typified by R222, came at the cost of either a reduced payload or a refueling stop en route; commonly Anchorage. New polar routes, like Polar 2, were opened in 2001 and permitted fuller payloads, nonstop flights and shorter trips. The comparative difference between R222 and Polar 2 is about 2,000 km in favor of Polar 2, resulting in a reduced flight time of more than 2 hours, excluding the refueling stop.