sunil asked in Cars & TransportationAircraft · 1 decade ago

what is the effect of earth rotation on flight traveling east to west ? should it reach early?

earth rotates. If flight traveling east to west (say INDIA to USA) would that flight time is SHORTER because earth is rotated in opposite direction of flight thus helping flight to reach USA faster ?

13 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Best answer

    The rotation of the Earth has no effect at all on airplane flights. The Earth, its atmosphere, the people on its surface, and the airplanes in the atmosphere all rotate at exactly the same speed. Flying west is no slower or faster than flying east, and distances are the same in both directions.

    An observer thousands of miles above the North Pole could look down and observe aircraft flying in the Northern Hemisphere. He would see that eastbound aircraft move more quickly than westbound aircraft. He would also see, however, that the Earth moves towards the east, along with its atmosphere and everything else within, so even though an eastbound aircraft travels faster, everything around it is moving in the same direction at the same speed, so the elapsed time to get to destination when flying east to west is the same as it would be when flying west to east.

    For this reason, from the standpoint of the Earth, the airplane, the atmosphere, and everything else on the planet, the distance and time involved in west-east flights are identical to those involved in east-west flights. An independent observer (one who is not part of this terrestrial system) would see differences, but the people on the planet would not.

    It's all a question of frame of reference. If your departure point or your arrival point is outside the Earth system, then the Earth's rotation is important; but when they are both on the Earth's surface and within its atmosphere, the rotation makes no difference.

    The Space Shuttle has to worry a great deal about the Earth's rotation when taking off or landing, because it spends time away from the Earth, during which it is not rotating with it. But an ordinary jet airliner never leaves the Earth's frame of reference, and therefore doesn't have to care.

    The Earth orbits the Sun, too, but unless you are traveling outside the Earth's moving frame of reference in its orbit, it doesn't matter. The Space Shuttle stays within the Earth's orbital path, near the Earth, and so its orbit around the Sun isn't very important. But interplanetary probes leave the Earth's orbit, and in their cases the movement of the Earth around the Sun becomes an important factor.

    The same could be said for the Sun's motion through our galaxy, our galaxy's motion through space, and so on.

  • Jaime
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    Well, it does. Near the ground, the air moves pretty much at the same speed as the earth because of the drag. But up in the atmosphere, it slows a bit down there where the earth has the greatest speed: the equator. On both sides of it, you have the Trade winds blowing westward. If you fly your aircraft in the Trade winds, you are actually affected by the earth rotation. When flying at roughly latitude 60 N or S, you are then in another type air stream; the jet streams. These are the result of the "kink" the tropopause due the the frontal difference of temperature and the Coriolis effect. Those go eastward, also with the spinning of the earth. As you probably know, the jet streams are used by airliner pilots to gain some time on an Atlantic eastward passage, and avoided in a westward passage. So, the earth rotation matters to pilots. Incidentally, I am a pilot too but only of the tiny homebuilt aircraft I own; far, far away from the jet streams.

  • 1 decade ago


    Although the Earth rotates, so does everything on the Earth.

    Flight time cannot be "shorter" it's only a misconception caused by time zones. If you did not change time zones, the flight time from India to USA and from USA to India (ignoring any headwind or tailwind) will be the same time.

    Since the air rotates with the Earth and airplanes are subjected to the wind, it is not possible to use the Earth's rotation to reach other destinations faster since you are also rotating with the Earth.

    The only thing this will cause is jet lag. Which is the body's confusion of what the time of day should be based a regular cycle which is disrupted when you move several time zones very quickly.

    Source(s): pilot
  • amous
    Lv 4
    3 years ago

    Earth Rotation Speed

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  • `✪~
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    Not really.

    Well for flights from India to USA as they are at diametrically opposite geographic locations of the globe, you have a choice to fly on either easterly or westerly tracks.

    Earth rotates counterclockwise when viewed from north pole.. so if the flight is routed from east to west (Via UK) then practically the globe rotates in the opposite direction to the flight path but an aircraft's relative motion with respect to the earth is slower & due to the gravity pull the motion is almost the same as when traveled in the direction of the rotation of the globe... (Via Taiwan)

    I have flown both the routes & my practical experience says that it doesn't really affect the flight time. More affecting is the wind velocities (Tailwinds or Headwinds) at the cruising altitudes which could increase or decrease the total flight time (flight time as much as + or - 1 hour )

  • 1 decade ago

    It does effect flight times and flights going East are shorter is most places in the world. We call it prevailing wind, i.e. the general speed of the air above the earth vs the speed of the earth beneth us (not the genrally way to describing it but the same thing). However, its not the same as the rotation speed of the earth because the atmosphere has drag against the earth so its rotating too; just not always as fast.

    Source(s): Flight Instructor
  • 1 decade ago

    Not sure where the answer came from that stated the earth rotates at 22,000 miles an hour. Actually it rotates at the equator at about 1000 mph. Some commercial airplanes have been known to fly faster than that, the Concorde being a notable example. You could actually take off and land before you departed, relatively speaking.

    I have flown on more than one occasion starting at one time zone and landing at a similar arrival time as having departed. Of course going in the opposite direction you lose a lot of time.

  • 5 years ago

    the earth is flat. How can the atmosphere rotate with earth ? Does it even make sense ? If this is the case why are clouds moving in different directions at the same location ?

    Take a ball in your hand image that top surface is thin water film. Now if there was a spin this do you think water will rotate with the ball ??

  • jtexas
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    the atmosphere rotates right along with the earth. it has to or else the wind would whip everything right off the surface of the planet.

    but, you may have noticed that the JET STREAM is a prevailing wind current moving west to east...the earth's rotation is a contributing factor in creation of the jet stream, and it has a profound impact on flight times.

  • Navlet
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    For the best answers, search on this site

    Based on your additional details, option (A) is most responsible for the answer I to the question I think you're asking. Because you are travelling with the earth at take off, the airplanes velocity relative to space, is equal to that of earth (plus/minus it's velocity relative to the earth). If you throw a tennis ball inside of a bus, to the guy sitting in the eat next to you, and the bus doesn't change speed / direction while the ball is in flight, it will travel directly to that person. You do not need to take into account that the bus is travelling 60 km/h when you start your throw and aim it way in front of your buddy. This is because the ball is already moving that same 60 km/h foreward at the moment you release it towards your friend. Planes work the same way, (when you negate some of the mechanics of the jet stream and such), they are already moving at the velocity of the earths rotation when they take of at "said speed." That "said speed" is relative to the earth, not relative to space. If we calculated speeds relative to space, even motionless objects on the equator would be "moving" 1000km/h, and that's not even accounting the earth's orbit, just its rotation.

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