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. No, this wasn’t the rebirth of the Concorde or the dawn of a new era of supersonic jets: The aircraft merely flew into a furious jet stream that propelled its flight way faster than usual on Monday night.
Peter James, a corporate pilot with 25 years of experience per his Twitter bio, remarked at the plane’s pace in astonishment on Twitter:
Almost 800 mph now never ever seen this kind of tailwind in my life as a commercial pilot !! (200 mph tailwind ) pic.twitter.com/0XGTkEP9EB
— Peter James (@jetpeter1) February 19, 2019
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:
The very fast jet stream was associated with a rapid south-to-north transition from the deep troposphere assoc w/ more tropical air to the much shallower troposphere of more arctic-type air.
Figs: pressure & wind speed of dynamic tropopause, & cross-section at 70W. pic.twitter.com/Bz01jFiroK
— Mathew Barlow (@MathewABarlow) February 19, 2019
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.
Source: Washington Post
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics