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Mon, May 15, 2006

There's A New Time To Beat For Raleigh/Durham To London

GIV Crew Gets A Little Help From The Wind For Unintended Record

If you're considering an attempt to establish a new international speed record from North Carolina's Raleigh-Durham International Airport to London, ANN has some news for you... the time to beat has just shrank by over an hour.

A Gulfstream IV bizjet (file photo of type, above) on a routine monthly flight from RDU to London in February got a significant boost from a storm cell positioned over the northeastern US, resulting in groundspeeds as high as 740 mph -- just slightly faster than the GIV's average 500 mph cruising speed.

"In 20 years of flying, I've never even come close to seeing these kinds of speeds across the Atlantic," said pilot Alan Sowell to the Raleigh/Durham News Observer. Sowell, who owns Mid South Aviation in nearby Sanford, was at the controls of the jet during its record-setting trip on February 12, flying the transatlantic flight for investment company MVOC.

The entire trip took six hours and 39 minutes, point to point -- beating the average time by just over an hour. Both the speed and the travel time were verified by controllers on both sides of the pond.

Sowell says both he and his passengers knew something was up shortly into the flight -- not that they were complaining.

"We were hitting 690 mph climbing over Norfolk," Sowell said. "When we went over 700 mph, one of the owners looked up, and it was like 'Good grief.'"

Sowell says the bizjet reached 740 mph at its peak -- and while the winds died down about halfway across the Atlantic, the initial helping hand resulted in an average speed of 583.99 for the trip.

That's good enough for both a national and international record for planes in the G-IV's class over the route, according to Art Greenfield with the National Aeronautic Association. Switzerland's Federation Aeronautique International also certified the trip as an international speed record on May 2.

While the flight did establish a new record for large bizjets, the Gulfstream's flight falls short of the all-time speed record -- 2,193 mph, set by an SR-71 "Blackbird" in 1976.

Of course, the Air Force pilots didn't travel as comfortably as the passengers on the cushy Gulfstream.

"It was smooth as glass," Sowell said about the flight.

FMI: www.naa.aero, www.fai.org, www.gulfstream.com

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