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British Airways records its fastest ever transatlantic flight as Storm Ciara hurtled towards the UK
Posted on 11/02/2020 , Modified on 13/02/2020

TransportUnited Kingdom

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Boeing 747 reached a top speed of 825mph, knocking almost two hours off the normal journey time in a race against Storm Ciara.

A record-breaking flight

A record-breaking flight
Markus Mainka/123RF

A British Airways flight has broken the fastest-ever subsonic New York to London record after reaching speeds of 825mph, propelled by a 265mph tailwind as Storm Ciara hurtled towards the UK.

The Boeing 747 landed at Heathrow Airport at 4.43am on Sunday after a journey time of just four hours and 56 minutes, shaving two hours off the normal journey time.

"The flight was riding a much stronger than usual jet stream, with winds over 200 mph propelling the aircraft," explains senior CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.

"The supercharged jet stream is also responsible for powering Storm Ciara, which has brought damaging wind gusts and massive waves to the UK, Ireland and other parts of Northern Europe this weekend."

According to the online flight tracking service Flightradar24, the BA flight was just a minute faster than a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350 flight that landed at Heathrow only moments later, and three minutes quicker than another Virgin plane which arrived at 5.12am on Monday morning.

All three flights comfortably beat the previous London to New York record held by Norwegian Air, which reached London Gatwick from JFK in just 5 hours 13 minutes in January 2018.

A BA spokesman said: "We always prioritise safety over speed records, but our highly trained pilots made the most of the conditions to get customers back to London well ahead of time."

Unfortunately for passengers flying in the opposite direction, flights were taking more than two and a half hours longer.

Is climate change to blame?

Is climate change to blame?
Luciano de la Rosa Gutierrez/123RF

Paul Williams, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Reading, believes the planet's current climate emergency is contributing to the increased frequency of these record-breaking transatlantic flights.

"The eastbound transatlantic flight time record has been broken three times in the past five years. It is the jet stream in the atmosphere that is getting faster - not the planes themselves," Williams told reporters at The Independent.

"As climate change continues to exert its grip on the jet stream, our studies have shown that twice as many flights will experience very fast eastbound crossings in the years to come."

Storm Ciara has caused severe travel disruption

Storm Ciara has caused severe travel disruption

Despite helping flights speed across the Atlantic Sunday night, Storm Ciara, the UK's worst storm in seven years, has caused severe travel disruption elsewhere.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled at Heathrow on Sunday, causing disruption to an estimated 25,000 passengers. Around 300 arrivals and departures were grounded in total but BA passengers were worst affected with approximately 140 flights cancelled as a precaution.

The strong winds caused many planes to sway and shake mid-flight, even forcing one plane from Florida to abort its landing at Gatwick three times before eventually landing on the fourth attempt.

Many train and ferry services were also cancelled with many rail pass passengers warned not to travel at all because of flying debris.