A Virgin Atlantic flight from Los Angeles to London has left aviation enthusiasts awestruck after the routine commute reached a jaw-dropping 801 mph (1,289kph) – nearly breaking the sound barrier – due to a powerful jet stream.
The Boeing 787-9 twin jet was passing over Pennsylvania on Monday evening when it crossed paths with a conspicuously vigorous jet stream – fast flowing, narrow air currents in the atmosphere.
At 35,000 feet (almost 11km), the aircraft was propelled forward by Mother Nature at a whopping 801mph (1,289kph). Not too shabby for a plane which has a cruising speed of 561mph (903 kph). Thanks to the helpful boost, the Virgin Atlantic flight arrived in London a full 48 minutes early.
The flight – which may have set a Dreamliner speed record – immediately caught the attention of Twitter, with even aviation industry insiders expressing their amazement.
“Never ever seen this kind of tailwind in my life as a commercial pilot,” wrote Peter James, whose Twitter bio lists him as a jet captain with 25 years of experience.
A transportation correspondent for CBS News also joined the chorus of impressed observers, noting that the plane’s extraordinary speed was thanks to “MONSTER TAILWIND.”
Others noted that there were other large planes in the vicinity which were likely hoping to capitalize on the natural speed boost – perhaps in a bid to save fuel.
Despite the passenger plane’s incredible speed, it still failed to break the sound barrier. As multiple Twitter pundits and articles pointed out, ground speed is not the same as air speed. Since airspeed is the difference between ground speed and wind speed, the plane failed to exceed the speed of sound.
Guys…. ground speed =/= air speed. The flight going 801mph was ground speed, not air speed. It was cool, but it did not reach mach 1 or break the sound barrier.
Here’s a good explainer of the difference between the two: https://t.co/gbktZFxhSn
— Becks DePodwin (@wx_becks) February 20, 2019
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