Speed Reads

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The jet stream is moving so fast right now that commercial planes are traveling faster than the speed of sound

If you're flying east today, you're in a whole lot of luck: The jet stream, that funny little channel of high-altitude air that flows over the United States and northern Atlantic, is moving at unheard-of speeds, delivering commercial jets to their destinations nearly an hour ahead of schedule, The Washington Post reports. In fact, one Virgin Atlantic flight traveling from Los Angeles to London notched a speed of 801 miles per hour over Pennsylvania — which, had it been on the ground, would have been faster than the speed of sound.

Thankfully for the passengers on board, the plane itself didn't actually break the speed of sound because, as the Post puts it, "it was embedded in the swiftly moving air," so only its horizontal speed over the land, or ground speed, crossed the 767-mile-per-hour speed-of-sound threshold. The plane's true "airspeed," or speed at which air was passing over the wings, would have been much lower.

Still, the speed is impressive, and is thought to be a record for a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which has a usual cruising speed of 561 miles per hour.

Other flights have also been catching an extra boost from the high winds: A 737 traveling from Chicago to New York hit a ground speed of 700 miles per hour on Tuesday morning, with that route's estimated travel time down to one hour and 24 minutes from the usual two hours.

If you're flying west, alas, the jet stream won't be quite as fun: The Post expects westward flights out of New York and New England to see up to an extra 30 minutes of travel time.