A passenger plane exceeded 800 mph due to strong winds — 200 mph faster than usual. Experts say passengers had nothing to worry about.

A passenger plane exceeded 800 mph due to strong winds — 200 mph faster than usual. Experts say passengers had nothing to worry about.
  • Last week, two planes reached ground speeds exceeding 800 mph due to high winds.

  • Aircraft and pilots are equipped to handle these speeds.

  • Flying in high winds has benefits. Passengers get to destinations quicker, and planes use less fuel.

On Saturday, two Boeing 787s operated by Virgin Airlines and United Airlines zoomed through the air at ground speeds exceeding 800 mph — about 200 mph more than typical.

The speeds — Virgin's plane reached 802 mph and United at 838 mph — are some of the fastest speeds recorded in recent years.

This was due to high winds over the mid-Atlantic. According to the National Weather Service in the DC area, winds reached speeds of 265 mph. The highest record in the region was 267 mph in 2002, NPR reported.

While the plane rides were unusually fast, two experts told Business Insider that both planes and pilots are equipped to handle the speeds.

A United Airlines 787-10 Dreamliner
A United Airlines 787-10 Dreamliner takes off.Getty Images

Planes are designed for high winds and fast speeds

The fast winds the pilots flew through on Saturday were tailwinds, meaning they were moving in the direction of the plane and helping the aircraft reach a higher ground speed, which is the speed relative to the planet's surface.

Kathleen Bangs, a former commercial pilot and a spokeswoman for the flight-tracking website FlightAware, told BI that tailwinds are "generally awesome."

That's because the plane uses a jet stream to gain higher speeds. And these high speeds are something aircraft are designed to handle.

Domenic LaFauci, an assistant professor of aviation at Southern New Hampshire University and a former flight instructor, told BI that an "aircraft has no issue working through this."

The challenges come when the plane needs to leave the jet stream, Bangs said. That's when turbulence can happen.

This might make a pilot's job harder, but as for the plane itself, they "are engineered to take or absorb turbulence," she said.

On turbulent flights, passengers might notice the plane's wings bending and flexing, and that's on purpose, Bangs told BI.

"It can be disconcerting to passengers, but it's how airliners are designed, and it increases their safety," she added.

A former pilot said cruising in fast winds is 'fun'

Chances are, your pilot isn't just ending up in a jet stream — they're looking for one, LaFauci said.

Airline dispatchers will help plan routes in jet streams because "this leads to shorter route times, less fuel consumed, better efficiency, etc.,'" LaFauci said.

And happy passengers, Bangs added.

"What's fun in the cockpit is to watch your ground speed on the avionics computer screen increase and increase until you're sailing through the air over 700-750 mph ground speed — and for some aviators recently — over 800 mph," Bangs said.

Bangs said pilots are trained for turbulence and briefed ahead of time on the weather. This gives them a better understanding of what to expect on the flight and allows them to communicate with passengers about a potentially bumpy ride.

Ultimately, Bangs said, "if that 260 mph jet stream is acting as a tailwind on your flight, it's a lot of fun."

Read the original article on Business Insider