Calculate Flight Times Across Different Time Zones

A scientist discovers that he can travel forward and backwards in time. He shows this to the media. How is this possible?

As you contemplate the answer to this classic riddle – for those who can’t wait, we do provide the answer at the end of this article – we will share with you some fun facts that will help you to better understand what it means to cross multiple zones on a single flight.

A Blink of an Eye

Seeing that we are talking about time, is it possible to depart one place and arrive in another in what seems like the blink of an eye?

No, we are not talking about some new secret jet aircraft that can travel at warp speed. Warp speed – which at 670,616,629 miles per hour is travelling faster than the speed of light, is not yet possible. But, on one commercial flight, you can depart and arrive at your destination in 57 seconds give or take headwinds.

For a $51 airfare, a Scottish commercial airline will fly you between the islands of Westray and Papa Westray. Located in the Northern Isles of Scotland, it takes just 57 seconds to make the 1.7-mile flight. You will not need to reset your watch on this trip.

Flying Back to Yesterday

While 57 seconds is the shortest commercial flight in the world, this past October the record for the longest non-stop commercial flight is now 19 hours.

The route which will take travellers from Singapore to Newark, New Jersey, will see passengers depart Singapore at 10:00 AM on a Sunday and arrive at their destination in Newark at 10:00 PM local time Saturday.

Like trying to figure out the equation for time travel, you may be wondering how a 19 hour flight results in a 12 hour time difference. Simple answer: time zones in which some are only 30 to 45-minutes apart. We will get into that shortly.

In the meantime, and depending on your time of departure, when you fly west with a 12 hour time difference, you are actually heading towards yesterday! Flying east you are heading toward tomorrow. Talk about back-to-the-future! Or is it ahead-to-the-future?

All Time Zones are not Equal

How many people believe that 1 hour equals “one” time zone? To all but the most seasoned traveller, this seems like a reasonable assumption.

However, when you take into account the International Date Line (IDL) and the fact that several time zones are less than an hour apart, you have 27 time zones in total.

Besides the additional zones, it is also worth noting that time zones and local time are not the same. Especially when you include Daylight Savings Time and the fact that there are 37 different “local times” in use around the world.

Not a Straight Line

You have probably heard the old saying that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

While this sage advice is in many instances sound, when it comes to flying routes, a straight line is not the shortest path to your destination. The reason? The earth isn’t flat. Sphere-shaped, the best way to fly between two points is on an arc as opposed to a point A to B straight flight path.

Visualize this: draw a straight line between New York and London on a three-dimensional globe, then flatten it out into a two-dimensional map. Your straight line would then become an arc. Pretty cool, right?

A Timetable for Fun

From extending your birthday celebrations or chasing New Year’s Eve around the world, flying allows everyone to become a time traveller.

The best way to approach the travel experience and not get a headache trying to zone in on dates and times is to let several useful online tools do the math for you. So sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.

By the way, and in case you haven’t already figured it out, here is the answer to the riddle: the scientist takes planes to different time zones.

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