Since Charles A. Lindbergh's historic solo flight in 1927, most transatlantic flights from the United States have been routed over Newfoundland.
Now flights between the United States and Europe --about 135 daily in each direction-- are normally routed over the Gander control center, Newfoundland, the easternmost center in North America along the route called the "Great Circle."
Transatlantic flights leaving New York typically follow that track, flying over Boston, New Brunswick and then over Gander, until they reach 30 degrees west longitude (about midway across the Atlantic). Then the Shanwick control center in England takes over.
"It's basically the shortest distance between two points," a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said.
The Atlantic is divided into quadrants controlled by Gander and three similar control centers in New York, the Shanwick center, and the Santa Maria center in Portugal, the spokesman said.
Gander Airport was built in 1939, and served as the chief takeoff point for American and Canadian forces during World War II. Transatlantic flights often stop to refuel there.
Gander is an "en route" center, meaning it monitors large portions of airspace between other towers which control traffic for a radius of about 30 miles, the spokesman said.
About 100 controllers are assigned to the Gander center.