Cargo sailboats, of the old, depended on wind direction. Like these ships, planes also save time by flying with the wind. On the extreme end, could a plane use storm fronts or hurricanes by flying in and out, in front of, or down the length of it to save time or fuel?

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    $\begingroup$ Following the wind should obviously use less fuel, assuming it is a good enough idea to go that direction. $\endgroup$
    – h22
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ Not the same, but I read some stories about WWII recon planes where they road the jetstream back. Some people can tolerate 20,000 feed unpressurized, and some people can't. $\endgroup$
    – Joshua
    Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ google "glider cloud street", that's riding the underside of developing thunderstorms :-) Bbeing it clear that atmospheric phenomena can be used to stay aloft please specify what kind of a/c are you thinking about $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 18:49
  • $\begingroup$ A crashed plane burns no fuel at all. $\endgroup$
    – acpilot
    Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 20:14

2 Answers 2


Not storms, but there is a concept called "Pressure Pattern Flying" where you plan routing to stay in favourable circulation around Highs and Lows, to the extent that deviations to follow the circulation flow and stay in tailwinds can get you there sooner than going straight. To take advantage of this you need to be going fast enough and with the range to span pressure regions. Although Lindbergh talked up this sort of thing in the 30s in his own flying, it's generally something exploited by airliners on transoceanic flying.

And in fact the North Atlantic Track system adjusts the tracks northerly or southerly daily to maximize or minimize the effects of winds around pressure systems, especially focused on jetstreams, which form at frontal boundaries at the tropopause. It might be worth a significant deviation from straight line point-to-point flight to ride downstream in a 100kt 10 mile wide jet that's going your way at 31000 ft (or whatever level the tropopause is at for a given region and time of year).

As far as storm systems go, nothing good happens near one. You stay away from them regardless of the size of the aircraft, 20 miles being the convention, and ideally on the upwind side. One hazard of passing by a thunderstorm cell on the downwind side, even if well clear of it, is running into hail falling in the clear air after it shot out the top of the cell.


What size aircraft are we talking about? The FAA recommends staying at least 20 miles from any thunderstorm activity for GA aircraft. I can only imagine that they would double, triple, or quadruple that for something as bad as a hurricane. Convective activity a lot weaker than that would keep most GA pilots from flying.

My CFI had an old saying when looking at weather radar. “Green takes the dirt off. Yellow takes the bugs off. Orange takes the paint off. And, pink takes the wings off.” Even that is putting a lot of faith in your aircraft and ability. Personally, I would be suspect of the green and would avoid the yellow all together.

Saying that, in the Northern Hemisphere, staying to your right of a low pressure system and your left of a high pressure system should provide you with a more favorable tailwind. But, how far right out of your way would you have to go in order to benefit from the winds of a hurricane without putting yourself and your aircraft in danger.

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    $\begingroup$ is that last paragraph northern or southern hemisphere advice, or both? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 6:59
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    $\begingroup$ @TamaMcGlinn - Northern. $\endgroup$
    – Dean F.
    Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 11:40

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