Transatlantic flight nears supersonic speeds

Posted at 10:43 AM, Jan 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-12 10:43:41-05

(CNN) — Transatlantic passengers taking the JFK to Heathrow red-eye got a helpful boost from stronger-than-average winds, reaching near-supersonic speeds and cutting 90 minutes off the scheduled flight time.

The British Airways Boeing 777-200 made the New York-London route in five hours, 16 minutes last Wednesday, and reached ground speeds of up to 745 mph, riding a powerful jet stream of up to 200 mph tailwinds. The sonic barrier is broken at 761 mph.

‘Like surfing’

Former BA pilot Alastair Rosenschein told the British press that riding the jet stream was “just like surfing.”

“It’s extraordinary how fast you can go,” the Daily Telegraph quoted him as saying.

“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 100 mph tailwinds but (these pilots) have got more than that. This must be a record.”

Several other flights heading east over the Atlantic also benefited from the weather, but it was flight BA114 that made headlines with the record time.

Matching Concorde? Not even close

Only the now-retired Concorde, which was operated by BA and Air France until it was decommissioned in 2003, bested Flight 114’s New York-London time — a BA Concorde made that trip in 1996 in just under two hours, 53 minutes.

For European passengers traveling westwards, however, the jet stream will mean longer-than-average flight times as planes need to battle powerful headwinds.

Gale-force winds affected travel in the UK this week ahead of forecasted heavy snow.

Some 40,000 households in Scotland were without power as the power grid went down in the Highlands.