British Airways records fastest ever New York-London flight at more than 800mph, as Storm Ciara winds see airlines battle for speed record over Atlantic

Boeing 747 arrives moments ahead of Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350 to clinch crossing time feat

Tom Embury-Dennis
Sunday 09 February 2020 09:53 GMT
British Airways plane breaks 800mph as it races against Storm Ciara on trans-Atlantic journey

A British Airways flight has likely broken the fastest-ever subsonic New York to London crossing time after reaching speeds of more than 800mph.

Passenger plane records over the Atlantic tumbled overnight on Saturday and Sunday as Storm Ciara hurtled towards Britain on the back of a 200mph jet stream.

According to Flightradar24, an online flight tracking service, a British Airways Boeing 747 departing JFK airport on Saturday reached Heathrow in 4 hours 56 minutes shortly after 11.20pm.

It was just a minute faster than a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350 flight which landed at Heathrow moments later, and three minutes quicker than another Virgin plane which arrived at 5.12am this morning.

Flights travelling in the opposite direction were taking more than two and a half hours longer.

BA and Virgin smashed the previous New York to London record held by Norwegian, which reached London Gatwick from JFK in 5 hours 13 minutes in January 2018.

The average travel time between New York and London is around 6 hours 13 minutes.

The BA flight reached its peak ground speed of 825mph at the eastern edge of Newfoundland at about 35,000ft, according to Flightradar24's tracking tool.

British Airways flight hits 717kts (825mph) over Atlantic

A BA spokesperson told The Independent: "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."

Despite helping flights speed across the Atlantic, Storm Ciara, the UK's worst storm in seven years, has led to drastic cuts in travel services.

Hundreds of flights, trains, and ferry services have been cancelled, with rail passengers warned not to travel on Sunday because Ciara will bring flying debris.

The “flow rate” at Heathrow airport has been reduced, with commensurate cancellations. The Independent calculates at least 25,000 passengers have been hit by cancellations to and from Heathrow.

BA’s passengers are worst affected. The airline has cancelled at least 140 flights to and from Heathrow, including nine long-haul round-trips.

It has also grounded services to Dallas-Fort Worth, Dubai, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York JFK, Philadelphia, San Diego and Vancouver. The move will affect about 5,000 passengers.

The fastest ever transatlantic flight time by a passenger plane was made by Concorde when the supersonic aircraft was in service.

The record-breaking flight from New York to London occurred on 7 February, 1996, when it crossed the ocean in 2 hours 53 minutes, according to BA.

Paul Williams, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Reading, said the planetary climate change emergency was contributing to the increased frequency of 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," Mr Williams told 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."

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