Who needs the Concorde, anyway? On Monday, somewhere in northern Pennsylvania, a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Dreamliner traveling from Los Angeles to London was able to get to where few commercial aircraft had gone: at a speed of 801 miles to the north. ;hour.
As The Washington Post The pilots and nerds of aviation were put in the light of the speed of the Boeing last night, joining the favorite social media of journalism to broadcast their pleasure to see appearing giant figures.
There is of course a problem: the Vmax at 801 mph was the ground speed of the plane, or the speed at which it passed through the icy landscape of the AP below. Regarding the 787, however, it was still within the limits of the performance envelope for which it was designed, sliding along the established cruising speed, which was about 560 miles per hour.
How? It's a matter of speed versus ground speed, of course.
It seems like ground speed is the speed at which an aircraft seems to move from an observer's point of view on the solid, motionless ground below. If you were the Flash and you wanted to follow the 787 above you yesterday, you would have to run 801 miles at the time to match it. Speed, on the other hand, is the speed at which an airplane travels relative to the air around it – for example, how fast a balloon could float in the same air. In the case of the Dreamliner, which was already very fast, this wind was a jet stream that ran from west to east at a higher than normal speed; as The Washington Post Highlighted, a weather balloon taking off from Upton in central Long Island, New York, timed the jet stream yesterday at a record 231 miles at the hour. With such a strong wind in the back of the plane, even a 225-ton 787-9 can get a good boost – in this case, enough to push it to speeds never before achieved, at least since floor.
Thus, from the FAA's ground-based tracking systems, the Virgin Boeing would appear to be supersonic over the north-east, while passengers and crew would have felt that their plane would sail to a beautiful and joyful Mach 0.85. Until they land at Terminal 3 London Heathrow at 8:22 am local time, Tuesday, 48 minutes before the scheduled date.