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Riding the wind



Ever wonder why it takes much shorter flying from SFO to Miami than back? The simple answer is the wind, or in some cases, jet stream.

At the altitude of 30,000 ft, in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, the air flows north due to the Earth Circulation (figure below), and deflects to the east due to the Coriolis effect. Flying east, the airplane is riding the wind, whereas flying west it’s against the wind. If the plane could fly at ultra low altitude, the wind effect would be opposite. (Of course the real situation is much more complicated than this simplified first-order explanation.)



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