Say I have two airports given.

I can then get their coordinates.

Now that I have the beginning and end coordinates I can draw flight-path from the two locations.

Now my question is that given two end points is there a "preferred" way to calculate which nations the flight path flies over?

My two possibilities:

Approach 1: You "ping" the flight path at increments to see where the flight currently is using google's Geocoder. However I am under the impression this would cost a large amount of data.

Approach 2: Find some sort of polygonal data to represent the nations and see when countries' borders the flightpath intersect.

Now I'd prefer approach two; but I am not sure where to find good resources/data to use.

Any suggestions on a best approach?

Thanks guys.


So far information I've found are as follows;

  1. Link to http://www.naturalearthdata.com/features/
  2. Link below from the first responder
  3. http://thematicmapping.org/downloads/world_borders.php

I notice that world_borders uses shapefiles; is there a way to read/import those into a java environment?

Any open-source engines that can read the data? I am assuming that the shapefile is what holds the polygonal country data?

Edit 2 For future readers: I found that for programming Java; the link in the comment of the answer below had good information.

namely using GeoTools to complete the project they have a step-by-step guide for Netbeans as well as Eclipse that I will report back with if it solved my problem.

Furthermore, I am using their step-by-step guide in conjuction with data from NaturalEarth.

  • Welcome to GIS SE. Are you looking for data, for a software solution or for an algorithm ?
    – radouxju
    Jun 27, 2014 at 13:42
  • Thanks for the welcome, I think the software solution is something I can pull out with an algorithm on my own. Jun 27, 2014 at 13:54
  • However; what I believe I am struggling with is finding a good set of data to work with; and the tools I would need to begin work on this. For instance if I wanted to start out with a Java-based desktop application are there any known tools that can read shapefiles? I am assuming shapefiles are what I would need? Thanks. Jun 27, 2014 at 13:54

1 Answer 1


Approach #2 seems to be the more comfortable one. You should have a look at natural earth data for a shp ( www.naturalearthdata.com/downloads/10m-cultural-vectors/10m-admin-0-countries/). Regarding the flight path I am not sure if it is always a straight line. You should consider that.

  • We are under the assumption that the flight path will always be a straight one. Jun 27, 2014 at 13:53
  • If the flight path should not be straight, then multiple flight paths will be taken and calculated accordingly Jun 27, 2014 at 13:53
  • Check out my updated question when you get the chance. I think the extra information should help with where I am going with this. Jun 27, 2014 at 14:01
  • 1
    flight path are rarely straight because of the wind. And even without the winds the shortest path on Earth is rarely a straight line on the map. as for reading shp, see stackoverflow.com/questions/2044876/…
    – radouxju
    Jun 27, 2014 at 14:01
  • 2
    The projection will affect your accuracy. It seems like you would want to project into a geodesic spatial reference to take into account curvature of the earth. Flight paths also are not straight due to the constant rotation of the earth as well as wind patterns. At 30,000 feet you have the jet stream to consider, axis rotation, protected air space, and probably a few other factors as well. So yes, not taking these into account can change what countries you fly over depending on where in the flight path these countries are. Jun 27, 2014 at 15:15

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