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British Airways sets record for fastest subsonic flight from New York to London

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE

    ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE

No, the Concorde has not made a triumphant return.

But a British Airways flight from New York to London this weekend clocked in at less than five hours, the fastest time by a subsonic jetliner for that particular trans-Atlantic route.

Flight 112, a Boeing 747, reached a top speed of 825 mph over the North Atlantic, according to Flightradar24, a flight-tracking platform. The flight left Kennedy International Airport at 6:47 p.m. Saturday and arrived at Heathrow Airport at 4:43 a.m. today, a flight time of 4 hours, 56 minutes. The average flight time on that British Airways route during the past 30 days was 6 hours, 13 minutes, according to Flightradar24.

Two Virgin Atlantic flights from JFK to Heathrow the same night also made it in five hours or less.

The speed of sound is about 767 mph but, because the flight had the help of a strong tail wind, it was not considered supersonic like the retired Concorde, said Jay Spenser, a co-author of “747: Creating the World’s First Jumbo Jet and Other Adventures From a Life in Aviation.”

“It’s just astounding that they got there so quick,” Spenser said.

The flight took advantage of the strongest part of the jet stream, known as the jet streak, which created tail winds of more than 200 mph and contributed to the formation of a powerful storm that wreaked havoc on the United Kingdom, said Ryan Hanrahan, the chief meteorologist for WVIT-TV, an NBC affiliate in Connecticut.

The hurricane-force winds of the storm grounded many other flights, knocked out power and caused flooding.

“The jet stream was exceptionally strong,” Hanrahan said today.

A British Airways spokesman, Chip Garner, said in an email today that flight safety was paramount.

“We always prioritize safety over speed records,” Garner said, “but our highly trained pilots made the most of the conditions to get customers back to London well ahead of time.”

Spenser said a Boeing 747 carrying 400 passengers uses about the same amount of fuel as the Concorde did with 100 passengers before it was retired in 2003. The flight time from New York to London on the Concorde, which was popular with the rich and famous and priced beyond the budgets of most travelers, was 3 1/2 hours.

Other than the early arrival in London, the passengers on the record-setting flight would have had little indication that they had reached speeds of over 800 mph for 24 minutes off the coast of Newfoundland, Spenser said.

“There would be no clues or cues that the ground speed was higher or lower,” he said.

Norwegian Air previously held the record for the fastest subsonic flight from New York to London, which it set in January 2018 with a time of 5 hours, 13 minutes.

On Saturday night, Virgin Atlantic Flight 4 landed at Heathrow 4 hours, 57 minutes after it departed JFK, according to Flightradar24, which clocked Virgin Flight 46 from New York to London that same night at five hours.

On Twitter, Virgin Atlantic said that the jets it used, the Airbus A350-1000, have two engines and are more fuel-efficient. The Boeing 747 has four engines.

“It’s true that we were narrowly beaten by a BA Boeing 747, however they had twice the amount of engines and burnt twice as much fuel as Captain Chris in our brand-new, fuel efficient Airbus A350-1000,” Virgin said.

Passengers on British Airways Flight 117 from Heathrow to JFK today weren’t as lucky. The flight arrived about 1 hour, 49 minutes late. Blame it on the head winds.

“The LHR>JFK flight wasn’t nearly as enjoyable lol,” Hanrahan said on Twitter.

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