Jet Plane / Conveyor Belt Conundrum

This isn't a particularly new or novel question but for those of you who maybe haven't seen it before this is always a fun topic of conversation!

The question is:

"A plane is standing on a runway that can move (some sort of conveyer belt). The plane moves in one direction, while the conveyer belt moves in the opposite direction. This conveyer belt has a control system that tracks the plane speed and tunes the speed of the conveyer to be exactly the same but in the opposite direction as the plane.

Can the plane take off?"


Staff member
I don't think so considering there would be no airflow under the plane to push it into the sky.

Do you know the answer to this question or are you just taking guesses?


Endangered Species
As shown by Mythbusters.

The plane gains its forward thrust from its propellers, so it is irrelevant what speed the runway surface moves as long as the air(<what the propellers use to move) is near stationary, the plane will always move forward and gain the airflow around its wings to fly. The wheels under the plane will spin twice as fast but they will have near zero effect on forward momentum.
I never understood why this needed debate.

Planes are propelled by the propeller/jet. The wheels move freely. A conveyor belt only effects the latter, thereby having no effect on the speed of the plane once it has started.

Also, I lol'd when the pilot thought he wouldn't take off.