Malaysia Airlines has to thread the needle now to get its planes safely to western Europe

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Aaron Schacter: I wanna bring one more voice into our conversation, here. David Conrad is our Google Fellow. He has been digging into all these flight patterns, who's flying where, and what hotspots airlines are avoiding. So David, what struck you about what Patrick was saying? David Conrad: Well clearly he is making the point that airlines are businesses, and that they aren't-- that politics aren't necessarily part of this. But in this instance, the data quite shows that the airlines are making conscious decisions to avoid certain hotspots. Schacter: And- and what do the maps actually show, what are you seeing in the data? Conrad: Well, for example we have a graphic up on PRI.org right now, which shows how a daily Malaysia Airlines flight, from Kuala Lumpur to London, is going to great lengths, quite literally, to avoid certain controversial hotspots. Last Sunday, for instance, they avoided Ukraine by flying south, which meant they had to fly over Syria, another unpopular decision. But they seem to have perfected it yesterday with this convoluted route that goes just around southern Iran, up over Mosul, through northern Iraq, just missing Syrian airspace, and then turning to avoid Ukraine. Schacter: Yeah, so they're- they're avoiding Ukraine by going over Iraq, which just seems a little kooky, but, this isn't just Malaysian Airlines, right? Other airlines must be doing this too? Conrad: Absolutely. They certainly aren't the only airline inventing these new creative flying patterns. Anyone can go to flightradar24.com, which is a database that I use that tracks flight movement in real time. And you see this striking picture of thousands of planes blanketing Europe, with this gaping hole over the Ukraine. And spatially speaking, flying around Ukraine is not an easy task. It is the equivalent of flying past Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and half of Illinois, because of an attack in Philadelphia. And we have a graphic which will show this as well. Schacter: Yep, and you can get that graphic on our website, PRI.org. Thanks for helping us picture this, David. Conrad: Of course, thank you. Schacter: David Conrad is spending the summer in our newsroom as a Google Fellow.