Storm Ciara whips BA flight over the Atlantic in new subsonic record

BA jumbo jet makes fastest subsonic transatlantic flight travelling at 800mph to complete the journey one minute quicker than a Virgin A350
File image.
File image.

A British Airways jet is believed to have made the fastest-ever subsonic flight from New York to London after tailwinds from Storm Ciara helped hurtle the 747 over the Atlantic at more than 800mph.

The 3,500 mile flight is scheduled to take six hours, 55 minutes but the Boeing 747-436 made the journey in four hours, 56 minutes – a whole minute faster than a Virgin flight.

Reaching a ground speed of 825mph over Newfoundland at about 35,000ft, according to Flightradar24's tracking tool, the flight time was just two hours slower than Concorde’s 1996 record, which was achieved by travelling at twice the speed of sound.

Storm Ciara has been described as one of the worst to hit Britain in seven years and has seen hurricane-force winds batter the country, causing travel chaos – but also breaking records.

A Virgin A350 travelling on the same New York to London route as the BA flight, completed the journey in just four hours, 57 minutes.

In a statement, BA 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.”

The previous subsonic transatlantic record was made by Norwegian operating a Boeing 787-9 in 2018, which made the trip in five hours, 13 minutes.

Despite the new speed record, BA has had to cancel at least 140 flights to and from Heathrow, including long-haul round trips to locations in Dubai, the US and Canada. Virgin Atlantic cancelled six inbound flights to Heathrow.

Emirates airline was also impacted and had to delay, divert and cancel flights because of the storm. Even some widebodies struggled to land at British airports.

A number of Middle East airlines were forced to delay, cancel and divert flights to other UK and even European airports because of difficulties landing during in winds of up to 90mph.

Emirates airline was particularly impacted and forced to divert two of its A380s trying to land, according to flight tracker FlighRadar24.

Flight EK15 was diverted to Zurich in Switzerland after failing to land at Gatwick, although a replacement flight is set for today and passengers were provided with accommodation.

Another Emirates A380 attempted to land at Manchester but instead diverted to Frankfurt in Germany. Another flight, EK29 to London Heathrow, was cancelled.

A spokesperson for Emirates airline told Simple Flying: “Due to heavy winds caused by Storm Ciara, Emirates flight EK17 from Dubai to Manchester and flight EK15 from Dubai to London Gatwick on 9th February have been diverted to Frankfurt and Zurich, respectively.

“Due to adverse weather conditions and crew duty time limitations, EK17 and EK15 will continue the flight journey to Manchester and London Gatwick respectively, tomorrow.

“Affected passengers have been accommodated in hotels overnight. Emirates apologizes for any inconvenience caused but the safety of our passengers and crew is of the utmost importance.”

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