A surging jet stream in the lower atmosphere helped a British Airways passenger jet approach supersonic speeds as it blasted across the Atlantic Ocean in record time.
Though the Concorde jet has put up its wings quite some time back, a humble Boeing 777-200 jet reached ground speeds of 745 mph as it rode winds of more than 200 mph across the Atlantic. The plane was quite close to breaking the sound barrier. At ground level, the speed of sound is 761 mph.
While passengers in the commercial jetliner might not have been aware of the speeding bullet they were traveling in, they were sure to have been elated, having made it across the Atlantic in record time. The passenger jet BA114 managed to complete its journey in just five hours and 16 minutes – an hour and a half ahead of its scheduled landing.
Apart from BA114, many other flights also benefited from the jet stream’s winter surge. However, as a downside, the same winter surge also triggered severe storms across Britain.
Experienced pilots have long piggybacked on the natural phenomenon of jet streams – which flow across the globe from west to east – to cut journey times and save fuel. Taking into consideration all the possible delays, airlines often advertise the route at seven hours. But taking advantage of the jet streams, pilots often manage to shave off about an hour if they successfully stay on the jet stream for the longest possible time.
The most common route to benefit from the jet streams is between London and New York, shared Alastair Rosenschein, a former British Airways pilot who flew 747s between the two cities and often piggybacked on the jet streams while cruising.
“It’s just like surfing. It’s extraordinary how fast you can go,”
He cautioned that while these jet streams might seem an ideal way to speed up the journey, it’s not possible for every pilot of every commercial jetliner to take advantage of the same. At only 10 miles across and about 2000 feet deep, it takes skill, planning, and a bit of luck to ride one for an entire route. It’s not often one gets to ride these waves in the sky, but the experience is great, exclaimed Alastair.
“You try to sit in the core of the jet where it’s not too turbulent and where you can pick up some free mileage. It’s not unusual to get 100mph tailwinds but they have got more than that. This must be a record.”
The high winds may have benefited the airline companies, but currently they are wreaking havoc in Britain. Record-breaking winds of up to 113 mph have lashed the country, leaving thousands of homes without power. It is only a matter of time before these ghastly jet streams bring more severe weather towards America.
[Image Credit | Alamy, British Airways, The Weather Network]