Flying from New York City to London usually takes more than six hours, but on Sunday a British Airways (BA) jet completed the journey in just 4 hours and 56 minutes, setting a new subsonic flight record for the route.
The faster-than-usual trip was the result of a “well placed and strong jet stream” during Storm Ciara, according to FlightRadar24.
Thanks to a strong, well-positioned jet stream, a @British_Airways 747 managed a new New York-London subsonic speed record today, making the journey in 4 hours 56 minutes—17 minutes faster than the previous record. https://t.co/HISXpN6Vns #BA112 pic.twitter.com/A2R42rsx14
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) February 9, 2020
Many planes flying the same route on Sunday reached a ground speed of greater than 800 mph for part of their journey, way faster than the regular cruising speed of between 590 mph and 650 mph.
But flight BA112, using a Boeing 747-400 aircraft, was the quickest of the bunch, setting a new record for the fastest subsonic flight between the two cities.
BA112 has an average flight duration of 6 hours and 13 minutes, with Sunday’s jet stream lopping more than an hour off the usual journey time.
FlightRadar24 pointed out that BA took the record from Norwegian Air, which held it for a 2018 flight that took 5 hours and 13 minutes.
Some on social media wondered if the faster speed would’ve put the aircraft under greater physical strain, but as many people pointed out, the plane wasn’t flying at a greater speed relative to the air around it. That’s why, despite recording a ground speed greater than the speed of sound, there was no sonic boom.
Doubt it. It was a steady fast tailwind. It wouldn’t have felt any different from inside the plane, except when you look down you’d notice that the ground is moving by faster. Relative to the air around it (which is all you can notice), the plane was moving at a normal speed.
— Ben McIlwain (@CydeWeys) February 9, 2020
A spokesperson for BA said: “We always prioritize safety over speed records, but our highly trained pilots made the most of the conditions to get customers back to London well ahead of time.”
A number of aircraft raced across the Atlantic in super-quick time on Sunday, including a Virgin Atlantic jet that was only a minute slower than British Airways’ plane. Apparently miffed at narrowly missing out on the record, Virgin couldn’t resist having a say on the matter …
It’s true that we were narrowly beaten by a BA Boeing 747, however they had twice the amount of engines and burnt twice as much fuel as Captain Chris in our brand new, fuel efficient Airbus A350-1000
— Virgin Atlantic (@VirginAtlantic) February 9, 2020
Passengers aboard BA112 were fortunate that their flight could take place at all. Storm Ciara battered the U.K. and parts of mainland Europe throughout Sunday, causing more than 450 flight cancellations at London Heathrow alone, and more than 1,000 cancellations across the whole country.
The record for the fastest supersonic flight between the two cities belongs to BA Concorde, which completed the journey in a mere 2 hours and 53 minutes in 1996, 17 years before the aircraft was retired in 2003.