Faster than SOUND? Passenger plane nearly breaks milestone barrier thanks to ‘MONSTER TAILWIND’
The Boeing 787-9 twin jet was passing over Pennsylvania 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.Also on rt.com Terrifying takeoff VIDEO: Pilot battles strong wind to get plane off runway
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.
Almost 800 mph now never ever seen this kind of tailwind in my life as a commercial pilot !! (200 mph tailwind ) pic.twitter.com/0XGTkEP9EB— Peter James (@jetpeter1) February 19, 2019
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.”
@VirginAtlantic flight 8 from @flyLAXairport to @HeathrowAirport hit 801 mph (ground speed so it didn't break the sound barrier) last night over PA thanks to MONSTER TAILWIND. Arrived 48 minutes early and may have set a top speed record for a Dreamliner. Image via @flightawarepic.twitter.com/LBAPUIaPni— Kris Van Cleave (@krisvancleave) February 19, 2019
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.
All the heavies are hauling out that way! pic.twitter.com/KdSKIFUCmy— Beverlypilot (@BeverlyPilot) February 19, 2019
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.— Becks DePodwin (@wx_becks) February 20, 2019
Here's a good explainer of the difference between the two: https://t.co/gbktZFxhSn
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