Flight and Earth's Rotation
Name: Dane M.
Does the rotation of the earth effect the flight time of airplanes?
ex. Does flying to a destination against the rotation take longer than
flying to one with the rotation, or do objects within the earths
atmosphere travel at a relative speed with the earth?
The Earth's orbit has no direct effect on flight time. The planes do not
fly through space; they fly through the air. As an example, consider a
hot-air balloon. The surface of the Earth, as seen from the Moon or another
planet, rotates at about 5000 m/s. A ballon released into the air does not
see the Earth move at 5000 m/s. The atmosphere rotates with the Earth, and
the balloon moves with the air. 10 or 20 mile per hour winds can make the
balloon move, but not anywhere near 5000 m/s. Also, the direction of the
wind is not in any way determined by the direction of rotation of the Earth.
Temperature and water distribution across the planet are much more
important. A plane not moving through the air will fall straight down.
Moving through the air is like moving through the water. When you enter a
pool, does the earth move without you, causing the side of the pool to crash
into your body?
Dr. Ken Mellendorf
Illinois Central College
Click here to return to the Physics Archives
Update: June 2012