This article from Not the Bee (note that this is a right-wing site, and the article includes a paragraph making fun of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, so don't click the link if that would bother you) reports that a 265 mile per hour jet stream made several airline flights faster than usual. The author seems to believe this made the flights more dangerous:

Is an hour off your travel time worth it? I kinda feel like it would be. Sure, your chances of dying are slightly higher, but I'm an American and an hour is an eternity.

I don't see why this would be the case. Would the fast jet streams have negative safety implications?

This isn't a particularly reliable source, especially on aviation-related topics, and they also have political motivations for exaggerating the danger of aviation.

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    $\begingroup$ At the risk of wandering down a deep, off-topic rabbit hole, why do you think a conservative site would have "political reasons for exaggerating the dangers of aviation"? Generally, it's the more liberal folk who are against aviation for the political "save the environment" causes... $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Feb 21 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ @FreeMan it's not conservatives in general; this site in particular likes to point out issues with aviation safety and claim that (a) there has been a recent significant increase in safety incidents and (b) this increase is caused by training standards being lowered for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Basically, the more dangerous they can make aviation in recent years look, the more "evidence" they have that DEI is harmful. $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Feb 21 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ @FreeMan to summarise very broadly, they think that aviation is "getting more woke" (based on a couple of stories about hiring practices at the FAA, replace "woke" with DEI, affirmative action, political correctness, whatever boogeyman du jour makes sense for you), that "wokeness" is bad, and therefore it must be causing bad things to happen. They will then find evidence to conform to that hypothesis, for a certain standard of "evidence". $\endgroup$
    – llama
    Feb 21 at 16:23
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, gotcha. Have never been to "Not the Bee", so I wasn't aware of that. I don't, in general, disagree with their stand on that. I want my pilots well qualified. I don't care what color their skin is or the arrangement there reproductive bits may be. I just want to get to my destination and not die along the way... $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Feb 21 at 16:29
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    $\begingroup$ The paradox of inclusive politics is, that they aim to fade "individual qualities", but they actually do the exact opposite. Suddenly ethnicity, sex and other totally indifferent denominators are a major consideration overriding substance. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Feb 22 at 7:22

7 Answers 7


Horrible example of journalism aside, any risk would come from clear air turbulence at the edges of the jet stream and the slower moving air.

In other words, it isn't the top speed of the air relative to the earth that affects safety, but the gradient on the way to getting up to the fast moving air mass.

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    $\begingroup$ The "journalist" may be naively comparing it to driving faster on a road. $\endgroup$ Feb 20 at 23:25
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    $\begingroup$ In both cases the danger is not the speed/velocity itself but the sudden declaration when you hit something stationary. Doesn’t matter if it’s a wall in the case of a car or slow air in case of an airplane. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Feb 21 at 8:33
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    $\begingroup$ Worth noting: 'Journalism' is no more the goal of "Not the Bee" than it is of Last Week Tonight or The Daily Show. It's designed to be (very biased) humor, not journalism. Though this article comes across as uninformed even by that standard. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Feb 21 at 9:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Graham, does Fox News actually "only claim to provide entertainment"? $\endgroup$ Feb 21 at 21:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Graham On basic facts, they're all equally bad in not reporting the basic facts, as none of them do. Not ABC, not NBC, not BBC. Almost none of the news agencies actually provide you "basic facts" and will always include opinion and bias. To think otherwise is more naive than using The Onion as a factual news source. If you want "basic facts" you need to go to news reporting agencies that feed the information to various news channels. Those news channels, like Fox, NBC, BBC, CNN, ABC, take those basic facts and then dress them up in fluff for you. $\endgroup$
    – David S
    Feb 22 at 19:06

Yes there are hazards, and you do want a captain who understands them and takes precautions. However anybody with an Airline Transport Licence would be expected to know about them, and the airline itself will have specific internal policies for operation into and out of jet streams.

The main hazard of jets is they are a major source of Clear Air Turbulence. Jets associated with fronts form in the warm air corner, on the warm side of the frontal boundary and under the tropopause. CAT occurs in the shear zone along the edge of the jet, typically on top of the jet at the tropopause or along the frontal boundary adjacent to the jet. There are other types of CAT, which occurs with sudden changes in wind velocity not associated with convective cloud, such as under the crests of mountain waves where rotors can form.

Jet streams may be indicated as a probability in weather charts, by pilot reports, or you may just find yourself entering a jet by the sudden ground speed change or heading change (if you're flying across it).

Lenticular clouds are another warning sign of CAT, the clouds indicating the mountain wave top, which means you can expect CAT blow the lenticular cloud.

In any case, if CAT is expected, you normally will slow down to Turbulent Air Penetration speed, and make sure everyone is strapped in. If CAT is really severe, and you are going too fast, people who aren't strapped down can get hurt, and there is an outside chance of damaging the airplane.

So basically the jet stream itself is not a problem, but the turbulence associated with shear zones at the boundaries is. And if you blundered into a jet that was a headwind you hadn't planned on, you might need to shift your route to get out of it.

To be clear about the concerns of DEI in the industry, it's not about resistance to minorities and women in the flight deck. It's a concern about standards being reduced to meet arbitrary DEI targets, because such targets, if enforced unreasonably by management under the gun to do-or-die due to political pressure, introduce a basic math problem; that is, the quota target necessarily reduces the talent pool, and if a directive from on-high says meet the target or else, reductions in standards may be the only option to meet the quota. That's the key concern.

If the US, the Colgan Rule, that requires 1500 hours to fly transport aircraft in airline operations, had a similar perverse math effect, by reducing the talent pool by excluding top notch copilot candidates just because they had less than 1500 hours (many of whom were likely female and minority). Regional operators were bitterly opposed to this because it put them in the position where they were forced to discard a superstar candidate's resume with, say, 1300 hrs, in favour of midwit candidate's with 1700. Such an arbitrary limit had little safety value in reality.

  • $\begingroup$ The funny thing there is that both pilots in the Colgan crash had more then 1500 hours... $\endgroup$
    – Questor
    Feb 23 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ Yep. None of it ever made any sense. In Canada there is no such thing and the Regionals still take kids with 4-500 hrs, sometimes right from the schools, but for the really green ones they give them a more comprehensive training program than the normal 3-week fire hose initial type course. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Feb 23 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, $200K worth flights (after flight school) before you can become a pilot? becoming a pilot is not for the poor. $\endgroup$
    – Questor
    Feb 23 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ Nobody ever went from a flying school to a regional airline in the past. When I was young you needed a couple thousand hours before they would look at you. You get your ratings, and go fly for 3rd tier carriers, or instruct or go fly the bush, or whatever. The path is there for anybody who can finance a commercial lisc. Much easier now, since the shortage is so bad and everybody is crying for pilots. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Feb 23 at 20:20

One common way to measure accident rates is in Hours Flown per Incident. Typical accident rates in General Aviation are about 4.5 incidents per 100,000 flight hours. I cannot find a reliable source for the rate for Commercial Aviation flights.

Note that an "incident" is not one of the big fatal crashes that makes news, but any incident that results in damage to a plane or passenger.

When the jet stream makes a plane fly faster, it gets to its destination faster. Fewer flight hours means less time for an incident to occur, which implies greater safety.

However, most aviation accidents happen during critical phases of flight such as departure and landing. Once a flight is established in cruise in the jet stream, there's a lot less that can go wrong. There's minimal maneuvering, and minimal changes to power or configuration. Saving time in the jet stream is really reducing time in the safest part of flight already.

Overall, a fast jetstream should have very minimal impact either way on safety. I estimate it might make flying a little bit safer due to the flight time saved.

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    $\begingroup$ "I estimate it might make flying a little bit safer due to the flight time saved." But if most accidents occur during landing and takeoff, and the jetstream speeds up the flight, then you will have more accidents per flying hour on average. $\endgroup$
    – Nobody
    Feb 21 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Nobody Exactly. So it makes the naïve statistics look more dangerous, even though the actual risk is almost certainly lower. A perfect example of "Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics." $\endgroup$
    – Perkins
    Feb 22 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ @abelenky... And I thought it was the 37% of all large air plane accidents between 2008 and 2018 caused by areas of high turbulence--Such as cough the airspace right around the jetstream-- that made using the Jetstream dangerous. $\endgroup$
    – Questor
    Feb 23 at 18:18

If you can manage to consistently fly with a strong tail wind, then you can fit more flights in your schedule. This increases the number of takeoffs, landings, and ground movements. Most of the (small) danger is near the ground.

As the other answers say, the jet stream has no meaningful risk for a fixed number of flights. If you have a fixed amount of time and want to squeeze in more flights, you can expect a minuscule increase in risk.


Small consequence would be arriving with more fuel on board than expected, leading to a slightly higher landing weight. This would increase the consequences of any poor landing, by having more combustibles on-board.

This is superior to the inverse, where the plane has a headwind, a slower speed, and arrives at the destination with negative fuel.

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    $\begingroup$ The accuracy of modern weather forecasts & reports really negate this. If I'm planned to land with X fuel on board, that has been done accounting for the winds. An unexpected wind can lead to landing with unexpectedly high or low fuel loads, but that's separate from the strong (but known) jetstreams of the OP. If anything, strong tailwinds make for slightly lighter *takeoff weights, since less fuel is required for the flight. That slightly reduces the risks, should anything go wrong during or shortly after takeoff. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Feb 23 at 18:02


It is more dangerous because of the area of high turbulence around the jet stream, but as long as the passengers/crew are properly strapped in when entering/exiting the jet stream the risks are not higher than flying in general.


According to a NTSB report in 2021, 37% of aircraft accidents on large commercial planes involve areas of high turbulence...

To be fair the jet stream itself is not very turbulent, it is the CAT (clear air turbulence) around the jet stream that can be problematic. I can think of one instance off the top of my head a 747 flew into the CAT around a jet stream and had one fatality and multiple injuries because they were not strapped in.

So, the answer to the question is... Jet Streams are not more dangerous. But entering/exiting the jet stream exposes the airplane to pretty high turbulence caused by shear bands.

This poses little risk to the airframe which can easily withstand the forces... but does pose a risk to passengers/crew members if people are not properly strapped in. All of the injuries involving the jet stream that I know of involve passengers/crew who were not strapped in.


As others pointed out, there are two potential factors that may increase the risk.

  • increase in landing weight, due to less fuel burned during the flight;
  • densier landing schedule at the arrival airport, so more traffic, so increased risk at the critical landing moment.

However, the site in question forgot to mention that reduced flight time at high altitude reduces the exposure to radiation for each passenger.


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