The azimuthal equidistant map is a valid map. The map is a projection of the spherical Earth. Like every other map, it has distortions. It is not the “flat-Earth map,” and the usage of the azimuthal equidistant map does not endorse a flat Earth.
Flat-Earthers claim the shape of the polar azimuthal equidistant map as their own “flat-Earth map.” It is identical with the azimuthal equidistant map only in shape, but not in everything else. Unlike the azimuthal equidistant map, the so-called “flat-Earth map” does not represent reality.
An azimuthal equidistant map centered on the north pole is used for various purposes. It is used by the United Nations, USGS, or US military. Because it looks identical to what they call the “flat-Earth map,” flat-Earthers often think that the usage of the map indicates an endorsement of the flat Earth model. They claim the fact as a “recognition” from various International bodies that the Earth is flat. In reality, the polar azimuthal equidistant map is not the flat-Earth map. They both only look identical in shape, but they are fundamentally very different.
Like every other map, the azimuthal equidistant map is simply a projection of the real figure of the Earth. It has distortions. The shortest route between two points in the map is not always represented by a straight line. The shortest route is determined by calculating the great-circle distance on the spherical figure of the Earth.
On the other hand, the so-called “flat-Earth map” is claimed to be distortion-free. Flat-Earthers regard the map as a scaled-down representation of the real Earth, not a projection of it. They claim the map does not have distortions, and the shortest route between two points is always represented by a straight line. In reality, the ‘flat-Earth map’ does not agree with real-world observations and does not represent the actual figure of the Earth.
The usage of an azimuthal equidistant map is not unusual. It does not signify that International bodies are subconsciously endorsing flat Earth. The azimuthal equidistant map is used because of its suitability for the task at hand, not because the Earth is flat.
- Azimuthal equidistant projection – Wikipedia