Did an airliner on a flight to Europe from the United States almost break the sound barrier as news organizations are claiming today?
The British Airways flight reached ground speeds of up to 745 miles per hour, CNN reports. The sonic barrier, or the speed of sound, is broken at about 761 mph. For the sake of the discussion, let’s just ignore the fact that the speed of sound — Mach 1 — changes depending on circumstances.
“The plane was quite close to breaking the sound barrier,” The Inquisitr said.
If you paid attention in science class, you’ve probably already spotted the flaw in the story.
The airliner, helped along by a tailwind, wasn’t flying any faster than any other airliner usually does, so it didn’t come anywhere near breaking the sound barrier. If it had, it would have broken up from the stresses.
Consider this explanation from an airline captain:
The confusion arises between the understanding of ground speed and the plane’s speed. The ground speed is the speed at which an object travels relative to a fixed point on the Earth’s surface. The difference between ground speed and airspeed is caused by the influence of winds on the overall speed of the aircraft.
This is analogous to you walking at 2 mph along a walkalater (travelator) that is moving at 2 mph. Your actual movement towards your plane at the gate is pretty fast at 4 mph (2 + 2) but as far as you are concerned, you are still walking at 2 mph!
And speed and time are not the same thing.