A subsonic commercial airliner did what no other airliner could do — that is, fly across the Atlantic ocean from New York to London with a plane full of passengers at 825 mph (1,327 km/h) in just four hours and 56 minutes, the BBC reported. That’s 80 minutes ahead of schedule!
Excactly how was that done? Well, let’s just say, the British Airways Boeing 747 had some help from Mother Nature, specifically Storm Ciara, which is hitting the north coast of Ireland and the UK as we speak.
According to Flightradar24, an online flight tracking service, it beat a previous of five hours 13 minutes record held by a Norwegians Air Shuttle Boeing 787 Dreamliner in January 2018. On that particular flight, tailwinds allowed the aircraft to reach a ground speed of 776 mph over the 3,500 mile journey, the report said.
Aviation consultant and former British Airways pilot Alastair Rosenschein said the aircraft reached a “phenomenal speed,” but never broke the sound barrier. That is because the aircraft was travelling within the jet stream, which is essentially fast moving air, the report said.
“The pilot will have sat their aircraft in the core of the jet stream and at this time of year it’s quite strong. Turbulence in those jet streams can be quite severe, but you can also find it can be a very smooth journey.”
The jet stream reached speeds of 260 mph (418 km/h) on Sunday morning, according to BBC Weather, the report said.
Relative to the air, the plane was travelling slower than 801 mph, thereby staying within the acceptable safety envelope, which did not over-stress the airframe, the report said.
Modern passenger planes usually travel at about 85% the speed of sound, according to Rosenschein.
Aviation experts say the flight plan would have been based on the best CI (Cost Index) that takes in all parameters, such as fuel burn, overfly charges and crew cost for the best airspeed to achieve the most efficient route.
Notably, the spread between high speed stall and max overspeed is very small at the high altitudes aircraft operate at today, which is why the crew did not throttle back.
Said British Airways: “We always prioritize safety over speed records.
“Our highly-trained pilots made the most of the conditions to get customers back to London well ahead of time.”
The fastest transatlantic crossing belongs to a British Airways Concorde, which flew from New York to London in two hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds in 1996 — hitting a top speed of 1,350 mph, the report said.