Snowden watch: Today’s Moscow-Havana flight taking a very odd detour that avoids the U.S.


Update: It turns out that several westbound transatlantic flights are diverting south today due to unusual turbulence over Greenland. It’s still possible that Snowden may be on board (click here for why) but it does suggest that the plane detoured for meteorological rather than political reasons.

At 2:13 p.m. Moscow time on Thursday, or 6:13 a.m. EST, the four-times-a-week Aeroflot flight from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport to Havana, Cuba, took off as usual.

But then something strange happened: The plane did not follow its normal route, which takes it northwest over Scandinavia, then across Iceland and Greenland before turning south over Canada and the continental United States. Although this might look like a curve on flat maps, it’s actually the shortest route, following the curve of the Earth, as well as the safest since it keeps the plane near land in case of an emergency.

Instead of taking the usual route, Flight 150 headed west over Central Europe, crossing Belarus, Poland, Germany and then France. As of this writing, it’s over the vast expanse of the Atlantic ocean — an extremely unusual path for a trans-Atlantic flight. The route is longer and, because it’s so far from land, potentially less safe.

Today’s flight path is at the top of this page. At the bottom are the last six flight paths for Aeroflot 150, all of which headed over Scandinavia, Canada and the United States.

So why is today’s Moscow-Havana Aeroflot commercial flight taking this very strange detour from its route? It’s not clear why, but suspicion is naturally turning to one Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker who’s been stuck in Moscow’s airport and is probably trying to find a way to get to Venezuela, Bolivia or Nicaragua, the three Latin American countries that have offered him asylum. To be clear, it is entirely possible there is another reason for the detour; the speculation that the plane carries Snowden and is diverting to avoid U.S. airspace may well turn out to be groundless.

But it’s hard not to wonder. After all, this was the very flight Snowden was supposed to take after he first landed in Moscow. Nikolaus von Twickel, the Moscow..

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