Ever Noticed That Airplanes Look And Feel Like They Are Moving So Slow? Well, Here's Why

It may seem like a mystery as to why planes never appear to be going that fast even though commercial flights travel at an average speed of between 550 and 600 mph. Whether you're on the ground or onboard, it is hard to believe that they go almost nine times quicker than a car does on a highway. However, according to Science Focus, there is a good reason why it looks like planes are going slowly when we are watching them from below.

It's essentially because the way our minds understand how fast something is going is by the length of time it takes to cross our vision. As planes are generally 35,000 ft up in the air, they are so far away that even though they are traveling at a much faster speed than any vehicle on land, they still appear to be slower. There is also nothing to compare them to in the sky, which is why an airplane looks like it is moving faster on a runway than in the sky.

Why planes feel like they're moving slowly

It's not just that airplanes look like they're moving slowly, it also feels like they're moving slowly when we're on them. One of the main reasons is the same as when you're on the ground; because in the sky there are no points of reference to help you understand the speed at which you're traveling. You're also moving at the speed of the plane which makes it harder for your mind to judge. Likewise, the background doesn't change.

However, Discover Magazine explains that one way to understand how fast you're moving is to look at the shadow of the airplane beneath you. Another method is to turn your attention to the plane wing. There, you will be able to see how quickly it moves through wisps of cloud which will help your brain gauge the speed of travel. These phenomena are two of the many ways that traveling by airplane can play with our sense of perception.

Other ways airplanes trick your mind

Nobody ever really raves about airplane food, including the late, great Anthony Bourdain, who steadfastly avoided it, but it may be the altitude and not the chef that is to blame for its blandness. The low air pressure inside the vessel can dampen our senses of smell and taste, which makes it harder to experience the flavor of food. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics in Germany even found that the tastes of sweet and salt are 30% harder to experience while you're airborne.

Naturally, bad food also slows down time. There is also the jokingly-named "Mile Cry Club," which refers to the emotions that are often provoked in the sky. A Virgin Atlantic survey found that 55% of responders felt more emotional while on a plane. This is thought to be caused by lower oxygen levels combined with stress and dehydration. So, if you've found yourself crying more at an in-flight movie than you usually would, now you know that this is another way that an airplane can play with your mind.