Jet Stream Helps 747 Set Transatlantic Record


A massive weather system that is bringing havoc to northern Europe had a silver lining for passengers and crew aboard a British Airways 747-400 heading from JFK to Heathrow overnight Saturday. The flight’s routing matched the path of a 265-MPH jet stream and the crew was able to get the old Jumbo up to 825 MPH groundspeed and make the crossing in a record time of four hours and 56 minutes. The plane got to the gate 80 minutes ahead of schedule on Sunday morning.

The weekend flight beat the previous airliner record of five hours and 13 minutes held by a Norwegian Air Boeing 787 in 2017. That flight had a boost from a 200-MPH jet stream. The 30-year-old 747 is also about 10 MPH faster at cruise than the Dreamliner. While air travelers enjoy the ride, what awaits them on the ground in Europe is less pleasant. The winds on the surface are as high as 100 MPH and are causing widespread disruption and damage across Europe.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. The good news is we’re 80 minutes early. The bad news is the 100 MPH crosswind won’t let us drop you at your intended destination.”

  2. Returning to Houston from Hawaii several years ago, we had a similar experience. The pilot announced that, thanks to the jet stream, we would be arriving in Houston an hour early. But, he cautioned that the ride would not be smooth. He wasn’t kidding. It was like a six-hour roller coaster ride! All things considered, most passengers would have traded the hour for smooth air so we could have slept.