British Airways Boeing 747 Beats Transatlantic Subsonic Speed Record

Thanks to amazing tailwinds and a very good pilot, a British Airways Boeing 747 has flown from New York to London in less than five hours. Passenger plane records for the flying time between North America and Europe were shattered today as Storm Ciara hurtled aircraft towards the British Isles at speeds touching more than 800 miles per hour.

BA112 just flew from JFK to LHR in four hours and 56 minutes. Photo: Eluveitie Wikimedia Commons

Online flight tracking service, Flight Radar 24 recorded British Airways flight number BA112 as departing John F. Kennedy Airport at 11:21 PM UTC and arriving at London Heathrow at 4:48 AM UTC, a flight time of four hours and 56 minutes.

Thanks to the strong jetstream, BA112 effectively shaved 80 minutes off its scheduled arrival time.

Fast jetstream common this time of year

While it is quite common to have fast jetstreams at this time of year, they can prove to be either turbulent or very smooth as appears to be the case with the British Airways 747.

The British Airways jumbo jet just managed to beat a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350 to the title by a single minute, followed by another Virgin Atlantic airliner just two minutes later.

Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have now smashed the previous subsonic New York to London flight time set by a Norwegian Air Shuttle 787-9 Dreamliner in 2018.

BA112 shaved 80 minutes off its scheduled flight time. Image: Flightradar24

On a flight from JFK to London Gatwick back in January of 2018, the Norwegian aircraft did the journey in five hours and 13 minutes. During its record-shattering flight, BA112 achieved a peak ground speed of 825 miles per hour as it sped by the eastern seaboard of Greenland at 35,000 feet.

BA always puts safety ahead of speed

When talking about the new record with the UK’s Independent newspaper, a British Airways spokesperson 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.”

Simple Flying reader David Redhill was aboard the BA flight and posted the following comments on an article we wrote yesterday about the possibility of the subsonic speed record being broken.

“We just landed at Heathrow on BA112 and captain announced that we’d been on the fastest ever non-Concord flight from JFK – 4 hours 55 minutes. We landed well ahead of Storm Ciara hitting, so smooth landing – well done, BA!”

Virgin Atlantic misses record by one minute

Virgin Atlantic missed the record by one minute. Photo: Bruce Cowan Wikimedia Commons

While possibly feeling a little hard done by after losing out on the record by a single minute, Virgin Atlantic released a statement titled:

Silver lining to the storm clouds – Virgin Atlantic’s four hour and 57 minute flight from New York JFK to London Heathrow.

“Last night the Virgin Atlantic VS4 took just four hours and 57 minutes to fly from JFK to London Heathrow (it usually takes approximately six and a half hours) getting our customers on the ground over an hour early. Captain Chris Pohl took advantage of a long high altitude Jetstream wind of up to 230 knots and the A350-1000 aircraft managed a top speed of 724 knots and a flight average speed of 625 knots.  Efficient planning from the Virgin Atlantic operations team and a steady approach into Heathrow made for unique conditions for this extremely short flight time.”

Virgin Atlantic’s statement also mentions being beaten by the BA 747. However, the airline consoled themselves by pointing out that the 747 had double the engines and burnt twice as much fuel as their new and efficient A350.

A special thank you goes out to David Redhill for breaking the news about the historic flight on Simple Flying.

If any of you were on a flight either last night or today that was aided by the strong jet stream, we would love to read about it in the comments section.