In Brief

BA jet nears supersonic speed on flight to London

British Airways jet hit 745mph on what may have been the quickest transatlantic crossing since Concorde

The flight time between New York and London was slashed when a British Airways plane reached almost supersonic speeds by riding a powerful jet stream.

The unusually strong winds resulted in a record flight time of five hours and 16 minutes, with the plane arriving 90 minutes ahead of schedule despite departing late from JFK airport. The journey is thought to be the quickest since supersonic jet Concorde stopped flying.

The Boeing 777-200 reportedly reached ground speeds of 745mph, almost breaking the sound barrier, 761mph, during its transatlantic journey.

Jet streams, extremely high winds in the upper part of the atmosphere, are regularly used by pilots to maximise speed, shorten travel times and conserve fuel and are at their strongest at this time of year.

"It's just like surfing. It's extraordinary how fast you can go," a former BA pilot told the Daily Telegraph.

However, as jets streams are usually only ten miles across, a combination of skill, planning and luck are required to take advantage of them.

"You try and sit in the core of the jet where it's not too turbulent and where you can pick up some free mileage. It's not unusual to get 100mph tailwinds but they have got more than that," he said. "This must be a record."

Northern hemisphere flight times in January and February, particularly between the US and Europe, are often noticeably shorter due to the increase in the prevalence of jet streams, with journeys westwards across the Atlantic taking longer and often encountering more turbulance.

The jet stream is formed by freezing air from the northern US meeting warmer air from the south. The weather system triggered gale force winds and storms in the UK last week, which left thousands of homes without power and caused severe travel disruption in Scotland.

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