Insanely powerful jet stream boosts airliner to top speed of over 800 mph

Posted: February 23, 2019 by oldbrew in atmosphere, News, Travel, wind

Wavy jet stream
[image credit: BBC]

Fly like the wind – but not your everyday wind.

Airplanes often receive a speed increase from air currents high in the skies, but very few get an insane boost like this: helped by a tailwind of more than 322 km (200 miles) per hour, a Boeing 787-9 jet reached a ground speed of 1,289 km (801 miles) per hour on Monday night, reports Science Alert.

The top speed was recorded by the Virgin Atlantic commercial flight from LA to London while over central Pennsylvania, at somewhere around 10,670 metres (35,000 feet) above ground.

“Never ever seen this kind of tailwind in my life as a commercial pilot!!” tweeted Peter James.

That’s above the speed of sound (1,234 km or 767 miles per hour at sea level in normal conditions), but there was no sonic boom.

Because the airplane was being ferried along in a stream of fast moving air, the airplane was only travelling at somewhere near its usual cruising speed in relation to the air around it.


Thanks to the jet stream buffer, the flight landed at London Heathrow 48 minutes early.

Jet streams are caused by circulating air high up in the atmosphere, due to differences in temperature between different air masses. The main jet streams move from west to east, benefitting planes going in that direction but counting against them when they’re coming the other way.

Flight times can often be affected, but you’ll usually find they’re well accounted for in airline timetables… until, that is, a particularly strong jet stream comes along.

Full report here.

  1. oldbrew says:

    Jet Stream

    The position of the jet stream denotes the location of the strongest temperature contrasts between different latitudes on the Earth surface. Consequently, the strongest jet streams usually occur during the winter months, when large temperature differences exist between low and high latitudes. There are two main jet streams – the subtropical jet stream at about 30 degrees latitude and the polar jet stream at about 60 degrees latitude.

  2. tom0mason says:

    I wonder how the cAGW advocates will tie this to CO2 levels?

  3. Mike In Fairfax says:

    The 30/60 latitudes are the ideal “in theory” version of the Jet Stream. Once you add the Rossby Wave effect, things get messy real fast:

    To get an incomparable look at “in practice”, explore the animation of near real-time global wind pattern data at:

    Move the globe around with your mouse, as well as zoom in and out with your scroll button. Raise or lower the altitude displayed with shortcut keys I and M respectively. Click the word ‘Earth’ at lower left and then the word ‘About’ to see all the other features available.

    Click on a spot to see the wind speed at that location (click the speed units to change to a different value)

  4. hunter says:

    Thank you.
    I had heard something about this.
    But your post makes this amazing phenomenon clear.
    Wow, 800 mph.
    I wonder if any civilian non SST jet has ever flown so fast before?

  5. oldbrew says:

    the strongest jet streams usually occur during the winter months, when large temperature differences exist between low and high latitudes.

    But so-called man-made global warming is supposed to have reduced those differences. However, more ‘weather extremes’ in recent years, as claimed by warmists, would suggest the equator-pole temp gradient was increasing not decreasing.