Wow: The Subsonic Transatlantic Flight Time Record Could Be Broken

Advertisement:

As the United Kingdom prepares to be battered by storm Ciara this weekend, there is a very big possibility that the transatlantic subsonic flight time record could be broken. This is because a bomb cyclone is forming near Greenland. This is expected to steer a storm currently over the south-eastern United States along a powerful Jetstream to Europe.

virgin-atlantic-boeing-787-9
A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 holds the speed record after hitting 801mph when flying between Los Angeles and London Heathrow. Photo: Mark Harkin via Flickr

The UK Met Office has issued an amber weather alert, which means there is “an increased likelihood of impacts from severe weather” which could lead to “travel delays, road and rail closures, power cuts and the potential risk to life and property.”

While gusts could reach 80mph on the ground, at 30,000 feet the Jetstream could see wind speeds as high as 250mph.

Advertisement:

New York to London in five hours is a real possibility

Aircraft flying from North America to Europe will be able to take advantage of these strong tailwinds, making a five hour New York to London flight a real possibility.

As the bomb cyclone meanders off the coast of Greenland on Saturday morning, conditions will combine by Sunday, to make something akin to a superhighway between the north-eastern United States and Great Britain. Commercial aircraft taking advantage of the speedy Jetstream winds could cruise at speeds greater than the speed of sound.

This is possible because it is the aircraft’s ground speed that will surpass 767 mph, not its airspeed. To explain it in a simple way, imagine you are walking on a moving walkway at the airport. You are walking at your normal speed, but because the walkway is also propelling you forward, you will get to your destination sooner. Let’s say your walking speed is 3mph and the walkway speed is 1.5mph, your total speed is now 4.5mph even though you are not walking any faster.

Commercial aircraft as fast as 800mph while riding the Jetstream.

Because of the superfast Jetstream, we could see a new record for a subsonic New York to London flight broken on Sunday. The current record is five hours and 13 minutes, set by a Norwegian Air Shuttle Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in January 2018.

On that particular flight, the 200 mph tailwinds allowed the aircraft to reach a ground speed of 776 mph.

british-airways-a350
Could a British Airways A350 break the record? Photo: BA

Following the record-setting New York JFK to London Gatwick flight, Norwegian Air Shuttle Captain, Harold van Dam told Business Insider:

“We were actually in the air for just over five hours and if it had not been for forecasted turbulence at a lower altitude, we could have flown even faster.”  He added: “The 787 Dreamliner is a pleasure to fly and it’s a great feeling to know that we have set a new record in this aircraft.”

Crosswinds could cause a few scary landings

As a child, I once made the journey in just over five hours on a BOAC Super VC10, but I cannot remember if we landed in Prestwick or not, before flying on to Manchester. At the time I can remember the captain saying it was one of the fastest ever transatlantic crossings.

boac-vc10
For a long time, a BOAC Super VC 10 held the record for the fastest transatlantic crossing. Photo: Ken Fielding Wikimedia Commons

While the faster Atlantic crossing times will be great for passengers flying from America and Canada to Europe, those flying in the opposite direction are out of luck, as their flight times will increase due to the headwinds.

The strong wind gusts could also lead to a few scary landings. However, this is nothing that experienced airline pilots can’t handle.

What is the fastest subsonic transatlantic flight, you have ever been on? Please let us know in the comments.

Advertisement:

30
Leave a Reply

newest oldest most voted
Nicky Nickleson

The fastest ever subsonic transatlantic flight would be from New York/Boston to Shannon or Dublin

Phil Blinkhorn

Back in October 1992 did EWR -LGW on a Virgin 747-200 5 hours 10 minutes wheels off to wheels on. Similar fast jetstream.

Gerry S

Off topic a little:….Just had to acknowledge that the VC-10 (or rather a picture of it taking off) was the inspiration for my career. Before that, it was a drawing of a DC-3 in my school text book. I was about six then. Years later, that VC-10 picture appeared. It determined my career choice. Sadly, never got to fly in it. I envy you, writer.

Max

Mark, I’m confused by something here….. at the top of the article you show a photo of a Virgin Atlantic 787-9, and say it holds the eastbound trans atlantic New York to London record…. then later you say Norwegian Air Shuttle holds it.

Doz

BA 747 Vancouver Heathrow 8.24 hours. Massive tailwind. Flew right the way across Canada and over the Atlantic just north of the island of Newfoundland. Normal flying time 9.5 hours.

Joel Bader

When I was much, much younger, I read a couple of books dealing with a TWA transatlantic flight from New York to Rome which took place in the early days of the jet age. The first one noted the benefit of the jet stream–in which a Boeing 707 (if I am not mistaken) was tracked with radar at going nearly 800 miles per hour. The second one–by the same author, but geared for younger readers and lacking illustrations nonetheless provided a clue of how jets could fly at supersonic speeds using the jet stream–sound’s speed is enhanced when sound is carried via the jet stream. I imagine that lots of jetliners and other subsonic jet aircraft were able to go at speeds around 767 miles per hour–or higher using the jet stream.

Prestwick Pioneer

The previous record before the Norwegian was indeed from New York to Prestwick in a VC10.

Philip

The fastest to a U.K. airport is
5h 1m by Super VC-10 G-ASGC from New York to Prestwick, previous record of 5h 8m was held by Boeing 707.

Gerry S

YEAH-H-H! …….VC-10!……VC-10!

David Redhill

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!

Herrick

Currently tracking Norwegian 7016 JFK-LGW reg G-CKWT (the one with Harvey Milk on the tail) and it’s doing a sustained 700kts or 805 mph and at one point hit 704kts or 810mph!

Yannick

Virgin Atlantic VS4 just landed with a flight time of less than 5 hours and max speed exceeding 800 mph, the captain stated it should be record but then there are many other flights landing in the next few hours

Anil Talpade

Air India flight AI144 (EWR-BOM) reaching Mumbai on 9 February 2020 has filed speed of 817mph at 31000 ft during its start of journey. It is a 777W.

https://flightaware.com/live/flight/AIC144/history/20200208/1655Z/KEWR/VABB/tracklog

Courtesy: Flightaware

Pamela Perlman

The FeB. 6th BA Chicago-London 17:10 flight map showed speeds of over 320KM and even 350km over part of Canada / Beginning of Atlantic. A bit Bumpy but not bad. Slept well for the rest of flight. Must have been part of Ciara system.

Gareth Bird

I operated an ASL 757 for Aer Lingus from Boston to Shannon, in similar jet stream conditions. We were airborne for just 4 hours and 12 minutes. It’s certainly the fastest Atlantic crossing I’ve ever made!

Gareth Bird

I operated an ASL 757 for Aer Lingus from Boston to Shannon, in similar jet stream conditions 5 years ago. We were airborne for just 4 hours and 12 minutes. It’s certainly the fastest Atlantic crossing I’ve ever made!

Gareth Bird

I operated an ASL Boeing 757 for Aer Lingus from Boston to Shannon, in similar jet stream conditions, 5 years ago. We were airborne for just 4 hours and 12 minutes. It’s certainly the fastest Atlantic crossing I’ve ever made!

Gavin Shaw

I had winds of 209 knots and a groundspeed of 638 knots South of Greenland the other night. That’s 240 mph/385 kph wind and 734 mph/1182 kph over the ground. Certainly the fastest I’ve ever been!

E C

A BA 747 flew transatlantic in 4h56 on service BA112 on the 8th! Speedbird 40F JFK-LHR, G-CIVP

Gavin

I had winds of 209 knots and a groundspeed of 638 knots South of Greenland the other night. That’s 240 mph/385 kph wind and 734 mph/1182 kph over the ground. Certainly the fastest I’ve ever been!

Chris Mabbs

I think the record was broken this morning. BA 744.sub 5hrs

Herb33

The ground speed may exceed the speed of sound but the aircraft would still be flying subsonically.