Mythbusters Plane on Conveyor Belt
YouTube Screenshot

"MythBusters" Tests If Plane Can Take Off on Moving Runway


Who's ready for a physics lesson?

Ok, wait -- before you bust out the slide rule and calculator, relax. The actual math is going to be done by the professionals here. All you have to do is sit back and watch the super cool stunts.

MythBusters is the kind of show that makes nearly everyone jealous. The team gets to do all the cool "hold my beer" kind of stuff we all wish we could do, but lack the astute scientific knowledge and the ability to access all sorts of supplies and equipment on a whim. If your average person did this kind of stunt, there would definitely be a hospital bill and probably a pending court case.


But, that doesn't mean we don't have questions. For example, let's say there's an airplane trying to take off in one direction, but it's on a conveyor belt that's going the same speed in the other direction. Wouldn't it stand to reason that the two things going the same speed in exact opposite directions would cancel each other out? As in, motion would just stop completely. The plane wouldn't be able to take off, right? Or is that just a myth?

The MythBusters team put this concept to the test, but first they need to source an airplane and an airplane-sized conveyor belt.

One thing we love about MythBusters is the ingenuity. What they can't find, they build, and what they can't build, they recreate from common household items. So, Jamie gets in his pickup, and pulls a giant tarp rigged to act like a giant conveyor belt in one direction, while seriously brave pilot Mark Johnson pushes his plane to take off in the other direction.

What happens next is pure physics in all its Newtonian glory, leaving everyone -- including the pilot -- completely surprised.


So, for those of you who did break out the slide rule and calculator, what do you think happened? Could the plane take off, or did they grind a massive hole in the tarp and burn out the engine in Jamie's truck? To find out, just watch the above clip.

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