We should all be so lucky to have an ambitious pilot such as the one who was in the cockpit of a recent record-breaking Virgin Atlantic flight. We should all also be so lucky to have an intense jet stream that could help propel our flight to speeds that break the sound barrier.
Virgin Atlantic Flight #8 from Los Angeles to London reached an incredible speed of 801 MPH thanks to strong winds. While the commercial airliner was 35,000 feet above Pennsylvania, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner twin-jet aircraft was able to ride the jet stream. A Virgin Atlantic flight from Los Angeles to London peaked at a whopping 801 mph Monday evening 35,000 feet over Pennsylvania. “Never ever seen this kind of tailwind in my life as a commercial pilot,” tweeted jetliner captain Peter James.
The 801-MPH speed was measured in ground speed, meaning that you would need to go 801-MPH on land to keep up with the plane. However, the airplane was in the jet stream and trucking along at a typical cruising speed of 560 MPH. The much stronger than normal winds from west to east in the jet stream supplied insane amounts of tailwind to push the plane. So that explains why the jetliner didn’t experience a sonic boom. Despite the sound barrier being 767 MPH, the airplane was only going around 560 MPH in airspeed when you factor the wind surrounding it.
The powerful jet stream shaved off 48 minutes from the transcontinental flight that generally takes a little over 10 hours on a non-stop flight.
A weather balloon was launched from the National Weather Service’s office in Upton, New York, at 7 PM on Monday. The balloon registered a jet stream wind speed of 231 MPH at 35,000 feet, which is believed to be a record speed.
“The river of air was clocked at more than 230 mph over Long Island on Monday,” SFGate wrote. “That measure comes from the 250 millibar pressure level, meaning it was at a height above 75 percent of the atmosphere’s mass. It sets the record for the fastest 250 millibar wind speed ever recorded over New York and, probably, the country.”