# Flights that arrive earlier than their departure

I saw a flight from Paris France to Vancouver BC Canada that takes 10 1/2 hours but you cross nine time zones, so you arrive only 90 minutes after you left. That means the plane’s average speed is almost as fast as Earth’s rotation at that latitude. That got me thinking. Are there any commercial flights that go from east to west, FASTER than Earth’s rotation, so that during the flight the sun appears to be going the wrong direction?

Earth rotates 360 degrees in 24 hours. That’s 15 degrees per hour. Are there any commercial flights that go from east to west with an average speed of more than 15 degrees longitude per hour? I understand the Concorde used to do that from London to New York, so you could take off in the afternoon and land in the morning of the same day. What about current commercial flights (subsonic)?

I’m not interested in anomalies due to weird time zones, daylight savings, or the international date line. That’s cheating.

The concord was able to see a sunrise in the West, if that’s what you mean.

Edit: I see you mentioned that already. I blame my phone. And beer.

Well, obviously the linear surface speed generated by the rotation is greatest at the equator, and zero at the poles. So if you are just concerned about time zones, you can walk in a little circle around a pole and cross 24 time zones in a few moments.

As for what latitude you’d need to go to to give you an funky view of the sun… not sure, but the same idea applies, higher latitude will make the effect of your linear groundspeed more pronounced. Too high a latitude and you’re in 24 hour day (or night), so the sun is just making circles in the sky, which isn’t really what you’re looking for.

Typical cruise speed is 450 knots. The equator is about 21640 nautical miles so the speed of the ground at the equator is about 900 knots. Therefore you won’t do it in a commercial jet at the equator even with some tailwind, but you could do it at a higher latitude. 60° N gives about 30 NM between degrees of longitude which equates to a rotational speed of 450 knots.

Just as well you included this, because I was about to point out that a flight from Brisbane to Los Angeles leaves at 9am in the morning, takes 13 hours, and arrives at LAX at 6am on the same day it left thanks to the international date line.

Well, whenever In have flown from Amsterdam to the UK (mostly London), the flight was less than an hour. In the UK it is one hour earlier than in Continental europe.

Verstuurd vanaf mijn Moto G (4) met Tapatalk

So Stockholm, SE (ARN) to Reykjavik, IS (KEF).

Air Greenland has flights from Keflavik to Kangerlussuaq (e.g., GL731) that arrive ten minutes before they depart.

Did you happen to read yesterday’s XKCD?

The thing is, airplane flights at high latitudes don’t go East-West. They go northwest, then south west. That’s not a problem for the physics of the situation, but it does require you to better specify what’s “cheating” and what’s not.

For example, can I leave Moscow, fly over the pole to New York, and see the sun rise again? Or does that violate the “international date line” rule? Can I go from, say, Reykjavik to Anchorage and call it fair?

Reykjavik to Anchorage is 3,385 miles at a takeoff heading of 330 true and it’s 9 hours apart. Go faster than 376 mph and you’ll meet your criteria, despite traveling north of Baffin Bay.

The OP doesn’t want to talk about time zones, but I feel obliged to share the story of the great but wacko ABA/NBA basketball player, Marvelous Marvin Barnes.

Yeah, I’ve done something similar but I’m not sure how you think it can happen without the time zone thing coming into it. You can’t fly around the world without it affecting every…thing!

On my outbound journey to SEAsia I lost a day crossing the dateline and arrived a day later than I imagined. On my return flight I arrived back in Toronto, 45 mins after I’d departed Singapore, same day, after having spent 23 or so hours in the air. But yeah, time zone!

What do you mean by weird time zones don’t count - what makes a time zone “weird”? The only way this happens is by passing from one time zone to another.

Flights from Grand Rapids, MI to Chicago Midway land 5 minutes earlier than their departure. Is that weird or normal?

I think he means to exclude time zones with weird borders, and very short flights (covering less than 15º of longitude) which just happen to cross a time zone boundary. The first paragraph makes it clear: He wants the Sun to appear to be going the wrong way through the sky, regardless of what any silly human-made clock might say.

Yeah, that’s how I understood it as well, to imagine for the sake of the exercise that each airport went back to setting its time according to the sun, instead of using standard time zones.

A few years ago I flew from Detroit to Nagoya (Japan). The flight departed late in the day, so the sun set (and it got pretty dark outside) within the first few hours after takeoff. The flight path basically followed a great circle: northwest out of Detroit, west across Alaska, and southwest along the Siberian coast toward Japan. So soon after the sun had set, we were at high latitude (Fairbanks, AK is at about 64 degrees), and zooming west. At that latitude, 15 degrees of longitude is about 460 miles. I don’t recall our ground speed, but I’m certain it was over 500 MPH, so we were definitely covering more than 15 degrees of longitude per hour. at some point the sky started getting brighter instead of dimmer; I don’t recall whether the solar disc actually popped up above the horizon, but if it didn’t, it was surely close.

FWIW that flight arrives at pretty much the same time of day that it departs, albeit a day later on the calendar because of crossing the international date line (the return flight arrives and departs at the same time on the same calendar day).

I was once on a flight, midsummer, Denver to Portland, where once we cleared the cloud cover in Denver, the plane basically flew into the sunset. For two and a half hours. It just seemed like it would never get all the way dark. So it was almost dark when I left Denver (although thanks partially to the fact that it was raining) and just after dark when we drove away from the airport in Portland, and it was a little uncanny.

ETA: Partly ninja’d by more posters while I was eating lunch. Oh well.
I see a few things getting glued together here. I’ll try to pick them apart and the OP can tell us which aspects he’s further interested in.

1. As Riemann & **Richard Pearse **said in posts 3 & 4, a jet flying due West can keep pace with or outrun the sun at/above ~60 degrees latitude. But at/above ~67 degrees latitude the Arctic Circle = perpetual day/perpetual night effects start to intrude.

So for current speed jets, there’s a narrow latitude window where we can get the effect of a flight ending earlier than it began as measured in solar time. Not clock time.
2) Timezones are not simply 15 degree chunks of longitude. Some are wider or narrower or have notches & bulges. So there’s plenty of opportunity for oddities there.
3) There’s obviously an edge effect surrounding time zone boundaries where flights can arrive an hour earlier in clock time even though later in solar time. There are certainly airports located near time zone boundaries. If a flight travels from an airport near the western edge of one time zone westward to just across the border and lands at an airport near the eastern edge of the next time zone, that can easily take less than one *clock *hour. Heck, it might only be 20 miles across town.

Maastrict mentioned a common example: western Europe to Great Britain. The US has lots of examples of such airport pairs, but I can’t come up with a specific example off top of my head.

A) Short flights have an inordinate fraction of ground time.
B) Takeoff, climb, descent and approach are far slower than cruise speed.
C) All that maneuvering is far less straight than cruise.

As a concrete example I often fly a particular short route. It doesn’t straddle a time zone boundary but it still works as an example. The straight line distance airport to airport is 192 statute miles. Our planned air mileage is typically 215 statute miles. And typically 35-40 minutes air time depending on wind. Which implies an average effective ground speed vs. the straight line distance of 288-329 mph. Which is much slower than our long haul average cruise speed of ~450 knots = ~520 mph.

Plus, the several flights scheduled on any given day from early morning to late at night are planned for anywhere from 1 hour exactly to 1 hour and 13 minutes gate to gate depending on time of day. So the worst case gate-to-gate time is ~2x the best-case air time. IOW half the “flight” is on the ground.

The overall punch line being that for a typical US airline operation, not very many flights are actually < 1 clock hour gate to gate time. Those that are cover very little distance over the ground. So little in fact, that not too many people are interested in flying on an airplane that short distance; too much overhead. Which is why there’s not too many such flights in the first place.
4) As already pointed out by a couple poepl, the vast majority of high latitude flying is using the polar regions as a shortcut. So although they’re going net eastbound or westbound they’re nowhere near simply following a line of (high) latitude. The best bet for finding flights that do fit the OP’s criteria for solar time is to look for flights in and between Alaska, northern Canada, northern Europe, & Russia.

I’m not thinking there’s much similar opportunity in the Southern hemisphere. Just not much land at the correct latitudes.
Following up on the recent posts since I started composing. …

Much of what **Machine Elf **is describing is Arctic circle effect. Yes, you’re going westbound. But beyond that you’re up at high latitude where the rest of the behavior of the Sun is counterintuitive.

Hilarity N. Suze: Yup.

One of our disfavorite things is to depart an eastern city about an hour before sunset going west. As we climb, the effect of the climb can reverse the Sun’s motion even at US latitudes. We can lift off shortly after sunset and pull the sun right up out of the horizon into the sky.

The worst case is when the Sun is already sorta low on the horizon at takeoff. During climb it reverses direction for awhile then goes stationary. Then once we level off and then as we drive west, the Sun sets about 1/2 as fast as normal.

So there we sit staring into that blazing thing for 2, 3, or occasionally 4 hours before it finally sets. Ouch.

The opposite effect obtains on landing. It’s not uncommon going eastbound to be in bright late afternoon sunlight in cruise and then descend into dusk and land in almost full darkness just 20 minutes later. Mostly as an effect of descending, but going east helps amplify it.

I found one!

Icelandair Flight 679, from Reykjavik, Iceland to Anchorage, Alaska. The flight is 7 hours and 10 minutes. Leaves Reykjavik at 5:10 PM Sunday Sept 17, arrives Anchorage at 4:20 PM Sunday Sept 17, on a Boeing 757 — 50 minutes before leaving.

(I found this after a lot of guesses that didn’t pan out, and I finally got lucky. I used Google Maps, plugged in city after city in the Directions, telling it that I wanted to travel by air.)

It didn’t quite match the parameters of the OP, because of the half-hour of going almost due south at the end, but I took a flight from Reykjavik to Minneapolis in December 2015 that took off right after sunset in Reykjavik, caught up to it (so the sun popped back above the horizon) then followed it almost perfectly until we were over northern Minnesota. Pretty cool to watch the sunset for about five hours straight.