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What is the effect if an airplane remains stationary in the sky as the earth rotates?
Flying - General
Written by Capt Lim   
Friday, 21 March 2014 15:48
Simple Earth Rotation
Hi Capt Lim,

I was so interested and really enjoyed reading Life In The Skies. I learned a lot from this book and some of my questions have all been answered in the book.

I recommended this book to my friends and they also felt that it is more wonderful than the Hong Kong's drama Triumph in the Skies.

We need your help to answer two questions that we always are curious about:-

1. What is the effect if an airplane remains stationary in the sky as the earth rotates on its axis?

2. Does a FLY fly faster than a flying aircraft in the cabin?

I always thought that it would hit the back of the plane if it is slower than a flying aircraft.

See Yaw Koon

Hi See,

The simplest explanation is to think that the atmosphere surrounding the earth moves together with it. In other words, the earth drags its atmosphere (all the air) along with it. For example, if you were to release a balloon and if there were no wind, the balloon would stay in the same place.

Another example of a stationary airplane is a helicopter. If it were to hoover or stay stationary at 100 feet, it would stay at that same spot all the time even though we know the earth is rotating at about 1000 miles per hour (at the Equator)

So to answer your first question, a stationary plane would remain at that same position as the earth rotates on its axis provided all this happens within the atmosphere.

If you are in outer space, then you are affected by the earth’s rotation. The earth would speed off at 1000 mph!

To answer your second question, just imagine yourself inside a car with all the window screens closed. If you were driving the car at 100 miles per hour, all the air inside will move along with the car.

If a fly or mosquito were to fly inside that car, they are flying within that air mass and would not be affected by the car speed of 100 mph. So the FLY would fly at whatever speed it is flying at.

Hope that answers your question

Pilot’s Perspective - LIFE IN THE SKIES


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Same theory applies to ground speed vs air speed.

It's possible to have a air speed of 450 mph but a tail wind of 100mph could give you a ground speed of 550 mph for example but in truth you're only still travelling at 450mph.
Andy , 24 Mar, 2014
Carried through to the end, this line of thinking is what resulted in the theory of relativity. There's no such thing as an absolute velocity. Zero velocity can be defined relative to whatever non-accelerating reference frame you wish. In the case of airplanes, 'zero velocity' is defined relative to the direction and speed of the airflow because this determines the behaviour of the airplane, regardless of what the Earth below it is doing.
MasterVertex , 09 Jun, 2014
Dear capt,
I read your answer
You said if an aircraft is stationary in the space, it would observe the ground moving at a speed of 1000mph.
one day you actually reach space and,
Sitting inside a stationary aircraft you might see that the ground is stationary too!
(I'm saying this because yesterday I saw a video of one scientist who rejected the concept of rotation of earth and he also rejected the fact that man ever went out into space. He termed it as a lie)
I respect your knowledge and experience, and I would like to hear your response for this.
Shahzeb , 20 Feb, 2015
May be You are right
Hi many scientist say something and many striggle for their sayings i see many programs on http://www.livetv.pk/discovery_tv.html and i beleive hardship give reward and i think may be you are right.
Alina , 24 Oct, 2016
I am not agree with you
Hi Caption,
I am not agree with your opinion
Alina , 01 Nov, 2016

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