A Virgin Atlantic flight from Los Angeles to London was able to reach a speed of 801 MPH thanks to a strong jet stream with wind speeds of around 200 MPH. One of the pilots on the 787 Dreamliner, Peter James, bragged about flying so fast on Twitter.
"Almost 800 mph now never ever seen this kind of tailwind in my life as a commercial pilot !! (200 mph tailwind )"
While 801 MPH is faster than the speed of sound, which is 767 MPH, the 787 did not break the sound barrier. According to the Washington Post, the reason why is:
Whether air travel breaks the sound barrier is dependent on its airspeed — not its ground speed.
Ground speed is the speed an airplane has relative to a point on the ground. It can be visualized as how quickly the plane’s shadow would move across the surface. Airspeed, on the other hand is the difference between ground speed and the wind speed.
In other words, an airspeed exceeding the speed of sound was not attained.
The flight did not maintain the high speed for very long, slowing down to around 700 MPH once it reached the Atlantic Ocean. That speed is still much faster than the plane's usual cruising speed of 651 MPH. The plane managed to arrive in London 48 minutes ahead of schedule, though the return flight will take longer because it will have to fly through the strong headwinds, slowing it down.
Photo: Getty Images