A Virgin Atlantic flight from Los Angeles to London broke an unlikely milestone (and nearly the sound barrier) when it reached a screaming ground speed of 801 mph while traversing the skies some 35,000 feet above central Pennsylvania.
The aircraft merely flew into a furious jet stream that propelled its flight way faster than usual on Monday night. It was pushed on its
Peter James, a corporate pilot with 25 years of experience per his Twitter bio, remarked at the plane’s pace in astonishment on Twitter:
Jet streams are essentially rivers or currents of air that travel west to east across the planet. They exist high up in the atmosphere, often where commercial airliners reach their cruising altitudes. The jet stream is currently raging, the Washington Post reports, because of the convergence of abnormally hot air in the southern U.S. with frigid temperatures in the North.
Climate scientist Matthew Barlow explained on Twitter:
Getting swept up in the fast-moving flow allowed the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to reach 801 mph—a 240 mph bump over its traditional cruising speed of 561 mph. While that statistic would suggest that the Dreamliner crashed through the sound barrier (767 mph), that’s not actually what happened: The plane reached a ground speed of 801 mph but wasn’t technically moving that fast at altitude. And even with its phenomenal pace, the flight arrived just 48 minutes before its projected arrival.
This definitely isn’t the first time the jet stream worked wonders for those looking to reach their destination ahead of schedule. Last October, a Turkish Airlines flight from Panama City to Istanbul flew 800 miles more than its normal route entailed, but still managed to arrive on time because of another ferocious jet stream.
However, the huge speed didn’t last for long. When the plane started flying over the Atlantic, it dropped to around 710mph, according to FlightAware.
But it did mean that the flight landed at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 at 8.22am on Tuesday – 48 minutes ahead of schedule. The gate-to-gate flight time was nine hours, 34 minutes, and wheels up to touchdown took just nine hours, 13 minutes.
According to CBS News, Boeing is unable to confirm if the speed reached by the Virgin Atlantic plane is a record for the twin engine jet as it does not track aircraft speeds.
This appears to be a record for the Boeing 787-9 twin jet, which ordinarily cruises at 561mph.’
Despite the speed achieved on Monday being more than the speed of sound (760mph), the flight didn’t actually go supersonic because the plane was travelling in a body of air that was already fast-moving. This increased the velocity needed to break the sound barrier.
In addition, commercial aircraft aren’t designed to handle the sudden drag and other effects that are created when breaking the sound barrier.
Source: Washington Post