Virgin Atlantic 787 Dreamliner breaks speed record —photosounds / Shutterstock

Virgin Atlantic 787 Dreamliner breaks speed record

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A powerful jet stream helped the aircraft to reach a speed of 1,289 kph and finish its Los Angeles–London trip 48 minutes ahead of schedule

2019 has started as a year of records in the aviation industry and this time it was a Virgin Atlantic’s flight from Los Angeles to London that has made history.

Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner overcame the speed of sound — EQRoy / Shutterstock Virgin Atlantic 787 Dreamliner breaks speed recordA Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Dreamliner broke the speed of sound — EQRoy / Shutterstock

Thanks to a strong jet stream that was passing over Pennsylvania on Monday, the carrier’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner managed to overcome the speed of sound and reached 1,289 kilometres per hour.

While the Boeing twin-jet usually cruises at around 901 kph, the strong winds at the altitude of 10.5 kilometres helped the aircraft to arrive in London 48 minutes ahead of schedule.

Virgin managed to overcome the record set by a Norwegian Dreamliner in January 2018 when the low-budget carrier reached a speed of 1,248 kph during its transatlantic flight from New York to London.

The record-breaking flight caused a storm of opinion on Twitter.

Peter James, a jet captain, expressed his astonishment that the wind was so strong.

Other Twitter users discussed if travelling above the speed of sound is safe.

Strong winds often help to save travel time

Transatlantic flights often profit from the powerful jet streams that encircle the globe several kilometres above the earth. They help them save time when travelling between Europe and the United States.

Sometimes, pilots even request particular routes to enable them to make the most use of the winds.

However, passengers usually cannot notice the difference, as the figure reflects ground speed — the rate at which a plane is travelling relative to a point on the ground.

Because the airspeed reflects the difference between the ground speed and the wind speed, people on board have the feeling the aircraft is moving as fast as it usually does.

That is why the passengers who got off the plane 48 minutes earlier in London probably didn’t realise their flight was special until they disembarked.

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