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A British Airways Boeing 777-200 has recorded the fastest transatlantic crossing by a subsonic passenger plane after freak weather conditions helped it break the sound barrier, and travel at ground speeds of up to 745mph.
BA Flight 114 between New York and London "surfed" on an unusually fast jetstream to make the flight in just 5 hours 16 minutes on Wednesday, an hour-and-a-half ahead of schedule. The only plane to make the crossing quicker is Concorde, which made the journey in 2 hours 52 minutes in 1996.
Eastbound flights often have up to an hour clipped by the jetstream, which is usually at a similar altitude to that of a cruising plane, but pilots must be skilled to ride them as they are usually 10 miles across and 2,000 feet in depth.
However, currently the jetstream is unusually wide as well as being much faster than usual – around 250mph compared to the norm of 100mph.
"It's just like surfing. It's extraordinary how fast you can go," said former BA pilot Alastair Rosenschein who regularly flew 747s on the same route.
"You try to 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. This must be a record."
The unusually quick jetstream – which is also causing storms in the UK – is the result of freezing air in the US colliding with warmer air from the south.
Jetstreams often intensify in winter, with a corresponding impact on flight times.
Pilots stress that even at speeds approaching the speed of sound, modern jumbo jets can easily cope with the increased stress.
Planes flying west have to avoid the jetstreams, adding time to the journey towards the US.