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Transatlantic Flight Ground Speeds Exceed 650 Knots Due With Strong Jetstream

Summary Transatlantic flights from Europe to America are longer due to atmospheric forces like the North Atlantic jetstream.
The jetstream plays a crucial role in flight timetables, with flights from the US to Europe arriving faster, while flights in the opposite direction take longer.
A strong jetstream was recently observed helping aircraft move as quickly as 650 knots.
Have you ever sat onboard a flight across the Atlantic Ocean and wondered why flying Westward takes so much more time than flying Eastward? Many may initially think that this is a construction of time zone changes, and there is some truth to this statement.
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Transatlantic flights often operate on an overnight schedule, and with the hefty time difference between the United States and Europe, will often arrive very early in the morning. For instance, a traditional itinerary between New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and London Heathrow Airport (LHR) might leave at 19:30 and arrive at 06:30.
Photo: Artur Buibarov | Shutterstock
From a psychological perspective, overnight flights often seem much faster, as passengers will have the opportunity to sleep, and time moves significantly faster at night. Waking up from an overnight flight can make one seem like relatively little time has passed, primarily due to the time difference but also because of the weaker sleep quality in the air. Flights in the return direction can be longer, daytime flights, psychologically taking a larger toll on passengers as they spend hours in the air but arrive only a couple of hours after departure by virtue of the time difference.
But the real reason for flights from Europe to America being way longer than those in the reverse direction isn’t psychological. Rather, atmospheric forces – such as the North Atlantic jetstream – play a major role in how quickly flights are able to cross the ocean. In this article, we’ll take a deep look at the jetstream in the North Atlantic and how it affects commercial aviation.
Flight times
The most notable difference created by the transatlantic jetstream, which traverses from West to East, can be seen when observing flight timetables. Let’s take a look at British Airways Flight 112, a nightly Boeing 777 service offered between London Heathrow (LHR) and JFK. This flight departs from New York at 19:30, landing in London the following morning at 06:30, roughly seven hours later.
Photo: Sudpoth Spirurata | Shutterstock
Now let’s compare this to British Airways Flight 175, a similar service in the reverse direction between the two airports. This flight departs from Heathrow at 09:30 and lands at JFK at 13:45 after over eight hours in the air. In terms of the timetable, we notice a very clear difference that can be created by the jetstream and the direction of travel.
Impact on flight operations
Undoubtedly, the jetstream affects flight operations, namely by either rapidly increasing or reducing airspeed. At times, aircraft velocity can be so greatly affected by the jetstream that jets traveling in opposite directions can travel hundreds of knots faster or slower than each other. Today, as can be observed below, aircraft were observed flying at nearly 650 knots due to a particularly strong jetstream.
From a business perspective, capitalizing on the jetstream is essential, not just to provide passengers with the comfort of arriving at their destination in an efficient fashion. Namely, by taking advantage of the jetstream, aircraft can capitalize on fuel savings, and can effectively reduce carbon emissions. In the reverse direction, pilots will carefully avoid the route that encounters the heaviest headwinds for the exact same reason.
How often do you fly on transatlantic routes? Do you notice a big difference when traveling eastward or westward? Let us know in the comments.



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