Weather conditions obviously impact airline operations both on the ground and in the air, usually for the worse; but on Monday, the weather helped break a new record for speed for a commercial flight. The record for the fastest transatlantic flight by a subsonic airliner was broken compliments of the jet stream.
The jet stream is a a narrow, variable band of very strong, predominantly westerly air currents circling the globe several miles above the earth. There are typically two or three jet streams in each of the northern and southern hemispheres. Depending on the season and the weather pattern in place, the jet stream will set itself up somewhere over the Atlantic, typically swinging north and south in atmospheric waves.
On Monday, conditions were just right with the jet stream and air traffic for a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to take advantage of those winds and race from New York City, New York to London, England. The jet operated by Norwegian flew from New York’s JFK Airport to London’s Gatwick Airport in just five hours and 13 minutes. The aircraft, carrying 284 passengers, arrived in London 53 minutes early at 9.57pm on Monday. The previous record was five hours and 16 minutes.
“The 787 Dreamliner is a pleasure to fly and it’s a great feeling to know that we have set a new record in this aircraft,” said Norwegian pilot Harold van Dam. “We were actually in the air for just over five hours and if it had not been for forecasted turbulence at lower altitude, we could have flown even faster.”
The jet stream also helped other flights race across the Atlantic. On the day before the record-breaking flight, London Gatwick-based Captain Pascal Niewold recorded his fastest ever transatlantic flight of 5 hours and 20 minutes while flying the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from New York to London. That flight had a maximum tailwind of 224 mph and reached a top speed of 779 mph. Norwegian Captain Pascal Niewold said, “The passengers and crew were very pleasantly surprised that we were already landing in London. It was a very smooth flight with almost no turbulence and as a result of the jet stream we arrived 25 minutes early.”