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Insane Tailwind Made a Flight Go Faster Than the Speed of Sound

Obviously, if you're on a plane, you're going really, really, really fast (a scientific term); that and those delightful little snacks are the whole point. But we guarantee you've hurtled through the sky quite like this flight unintentionally did on Monday.

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Obviously, if you're on a plane, you're going really, really, really fast (a scientific term). That and those delightful little snacks are the whole point, after all. But we guarantee you've never hurtled through the sky quite like this flight unintentionally did on Monday.

A Virgin Atlantic flight traveling from Los Angeles to London earlier this week hit an incredible 801mph while it was 35,000 feet above Pennsylvania, reports the Los Angeles Times. That is extremely fast. How fast? Well, a jet captain named Peter James tweeted that he'd "never ever seen this kind of tailwind in my life as a commercial pilot."

That speed was achieved because the jet stream -- the air current that storms and jets travel along -- is raging right now, and was measured at 230 mph over Long Island on Monday. The LA Times pointed out that that was likely the fastest wind speed at that pressure level ever recorded in the US. So the pilots weren't even trying to speed: It was more like the plane was traveling at 600mph while the air it was traveling in was moving at 200mph. 

The plane landed in London a full 48 minutes ahead of schedule. And it (kind of) surpassed the speed of sound (767mph), something commercial aircraft aren't even designed to do. But, because the air around the plane was actually what was moving so fast, the plane itself didn't technically break the sound barrier. 

These high speeds in the jet stream are far most common in the winter, so maybe you'll have similar luck on your next flight. 

h/tLA Times, Popular Mechanics


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James Chrisman is a News Writer at Thrillist. Send news tips to news@thrillist.com and follow him on Twitter @james_chrisman2.