British Airways flight beats transatlantic speed record amidst Storm Ciara

Over the last few days, Storm Ciara has been battering the United Kingdom with heavy rain and winds of up to 80mph (130km/h), damaging buildings and causing transport disruptions. Not left behind is the aviation industry, with flights being cancelled or delayed.

In a statement, British Airways said: "Like all airlines operating into and out of the UK tomorrow, we are expecting to be impacted by the adverse weather conditions across parts of the UK on Sunday". However, flight BA112 from New York to London was not cancelled and instead broke a special record: the fastest ever subsonic flight between New York and London, reaching a top speed of more than 800mph (1,287km/h).

Photo by Karam Sodhi | AeroNewsX.

The Boeing 747-400 aircraft flew overnight from Saturday to Sunday and reached its destination in 4 hours and 56 minutes as Storm Ciara sped towards the United Kingdom. "The flight was riding a much stronger than usual jet stream, with winds over 200 mph propelling the aircraft," said senior CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. "The jet stream is a fast-moving 'river of air' high in the atmosphere, around the height that commercial airliners fly." The plane landed at Heathrow airport at 4:43 A.M, almost two hours earlier than scheduled, while the average time it takes a plane to fly between London and New York is 6 hours and 13 minutes. This flight beat the previous record of 5 hours and 13 minutes which had held by Norwegian since January 2018. 

To imagine the beauty of this speed record, think that the Concorde, the fastest passenger supersonic jet ever made, flew from New York to London in just 3 hours and 15 minutes, by breaking the speed of sound. 

How is this possible?

Although the plane was clocked as having gone faster than the speed of sound, it would not have breached the sonic barrier because it was being pushed by the air around it. As the air around the aircraft moved faster in the same direction as the aircraft, its speed relative to the ground increased, but its speed relative to the air didn't and it stayed below the speed of sound (Mach 1). Even when traveling at more than 800mph, the 747 was traveling much slower than the speed of sound relative to the air around it. 

Interestingly, February has always been a special month for the Boeing 747. On February 9th 1969, about 51 years ago, the Boeing 747-100 jumbo jet took to the sky for the very first time changing commercial air travel forever. Also, just one day earlier on February 8th, The Boeing Company celebrated the 10th anniversary of the 747-8 freighter.

With these records, the Boeing 747 continues to cement its place as "The Queen of the Skies".

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