Jet stream forces plane faster than speed of sound

February 19, 2019 10:29 PM

Pa. (WHEC) -- It is interesting how the weather can impact your travel plans not only on the ground but also in the air.

Of course rough weather will delay flights but it can also help you get to your destination faster.  

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If winds are pushing the tail of an aircraft hard enough it can significantly increase its speed much like a swift river current.  

This was the case Monday evening when a Virgin Atlantic flight from Los Angeles to London flew into a jet streak, a local area of intense winds about 30,000 feet above our heads.

The winds within that jet streak were about 250 miles per hour. The normal speed of this specific airliner is 560 mph. This resulted in the flight picking up a ground speed of 801 mph! 

One would think that this would have resulted in the flight breaking the sound barrier which is 767 mph.

But that was not the case. Since it is was flowing within the general flow of the atmosphere it did not break the sound barrier. 

Now, this can be done in the opposite direction as well, making the aircraft slower.

One reason why flights from New York to California are typically longer than ones from California to New York. 


Robert Speta

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