When you think about how the Earth rotates — to the east — it would seem to make sense that a plane flying west would meet its destination sooner… after all, isn’t the planet is spinning toward the plane? In fact, that’s not the way it works. Why? The plane is “moving right along with the earth’s surface, and does not gain any advantage from this motion in travel to another point within this same frame of reference”.
In this brain-teasing episode of Minute Physics, Henry Reich explains why it isn’t faster to fly west, including how jet streams — strong westerly air currents that move across the planet — make westbound flights longer and more fuel-hungry than eastbound flights.
Watch more Minute Physics and more videos about flying on this site.
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