Why the Earth’s Spin Doesn’t Make Flying West Faster

Caitlin Schneider

As the Earth rotates in space, it pulls us along with it at around 1000 miles per hour (though we can’t feel it) depending on where you are on the planet. It seems like that motion would work in our favor when flying against the direction of spin—when your final destination is literally heading toward you as you head toward it—but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. Despite what logic might suggest, it takes roughly the same time to fly from New York to Los Angeles as it does to fly from Los Angeles to New York.

The folks at MinutePhysics explain the science behind the (lack of) phenomena with their signature brevity in the video above. In short, at 30,000 feet up, a plane is still caught in the Earth’s rotation, not separate from it. The short video also explains how the spin of the Earth does have some impact on air travel as it pertains to wind, and how even when we're going west, we’re always going east. Trust us, it’ll make sense in a minute.

[h/t Kottke]