American Airlines Boeing 777 cut nearly an hour off trip after hitting ‘speed of sound’

  • An American Airlines Boeing 777 cut almost an hour of its flight time from JFK to Heathrow 
  • The flight took six hours and seven minutes to travel between the two cities
  • During the flight, the plane traveled at the speed of sound 

Published on Jun 07, 2024 at 1:37 PM (UTC+4)
by Claire Reid

Last updated on Jun 21, 2024 at 3:53 PM (UTC+4)
Edited by Tom Wood

An American Airlines Boeing 777 flying from New York’s JFK airport to London Heathrow cut almost an hour off flight time after traveling at almost the speed of sound. 

Setting off from the US, the transatlantic flight took just six hours and seven minutes to get to London in October last year. 

It reached a top speed of 778 miles per hour during the journey, which – according to NASA – is faster than the speed of sound.

In ‘sea-level standard conditions’, the speed of sound is 761 mph, the US space agency says. 

READ MORE! Top secret fastest plane ever SR-72 ‘Son of Blackbird’ capable of 4000mph speeds

The American Airlines flight wasn’t the only one to experience a faster-than-usual journey last autumn – in November, an Emirates flight from Dallas to Dubai arrived 57 minutes early and hit a top speed of 675 mph. 

On the same day, a Delta flight from Los Angeles to London also shaved an hour off its flight time after traveling at speeds of up to 760 mph. 

What caused the decrease in flight times?

The increased speeds have nothing to do with engineering advancements – they actually had a very low-tech explanation: the weather, specifically the jet stream. 

According to the Meteorological Office, the jet stream is a ‘core of strong winds around five to seven miles above the Earth’s surface, blowing from west to east’.

During autumn last year, there was a period of rapidly cooling weather that helped to speed these winds up. 

Speaking in November, CNN meteorologist Sara Tonks explained: “This week’s burst of cold air in the United States has upped the difference in temperature between the United States (cold!) and the Atlantic Ocean (warm!).

“This increase in the temperature gradient is amplifying the speed of the jet stream, which is driven by temperature differences.

“The jet stream is expected to help strengthen Storm Ciaran, a low-pressure system and potential bomb cyclone that is expected to arrive in Europe tonight [Wednesday].”

CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam added: “Remember, ground speed is how fast an airplane is traveling, relative to a fixed point on the ground versus airspeed which is the speed of an aircraft relative to the air through which it is moving.

“Either way, these planes are saving time and money.”

How does Boeing compare to other fast planes?

Although pretty nippy, the subsonic Boeing 777 can’t compare to the speeds of the hypersonic now-defunct Concordes which had a maximum cruising speed of 1,354 miles (2,179 km) per hour, or Mach 2.04 – more than twice the speed of sound – meaning it could fly between London and New York in around three hours. 

While a supersonic plane being trialed by NASA is set to take just under four hours to travel between the two cities. 

And if you want really, really fast then check out Lockheed Martin’s top-secret unmanned hypersonic aircraft – called the SR-72. 

The SR-72 is touted to reach over 4,000 mph – or 6,437 km/h – making it the fastest plane ever developed.

# Tags - Airplanes, Boeing


Claire Reid

Claire Reid is a journalist who hails from the UK but is now living in New Zealand. She began her career after graduating with a degree in Journalism from Liverpool John Moore’s University and has more than a decade of experience, writing for both local newspapers and national news sites. Across her career she's covered a wide variety of topics, including celebrity, cryptocurrency, politics, true crime and just about everything in between.