What is the Fastest Airplane in the World?

Dan Reale

It is difficult to say with certainty what the fastest airplane in the world is, because the answer could be a military secret. There also are many types of flying vessels that might or might not be considered airplanes, depending on whether they are manned or unmanned, their methods of taking off and landing and other factors. What one person might consider to be the fastest airplane might be considered by another person to be a glider or a rocket. A widely accepted answer, however, is that the world's fastest airplane was the Lockheed SR-71, also called the Blackbird, which is said to have reached a speed of 2,193.2 miles (3,529.6 km) per hour.

The Lockheed SR-71, the fastest airplane in the world.
The Lockheed SR-71, the fastest airplane in the world.

The Lockheed SR-71 was a jet-powered and piloted airplane that was used to fly reconnaissance missions for the United States Air Force from 1964 until 1998. It is said to have reached an altitude of 16.1 miles (25.9 km). Some people have speculated that the Blackbird's true top speed and other capabilities have never been revealed.

Modern commercial aircraft now approach speeds that exceed those of the fighter jets that were used in the Korean War.
Modern commercial aircraft now approach speeds that exceed those of the fighter jets that were used in the Korean War.

Commercial Airliners

The fastest airplane commercially was the Tupolev Tu-144, nicknamed the Concordski or Konkordski, which is said to have reached 1,550 miles (2,494.4 km) per hour. Technical and safety problems, however, led the Russian company to retire the Tu-144 after a short time. Another one of the fastest commercial airliners was the Concorde, which generally flew at a top speed of 1,330 miles (2,140.4 km) per hour. By comparison, the Boeing 747 operates at a cruising speed of about 550 miles (885.1 km) per hour.

The Boeing 747 has a cruise speed of 550 miles per hour, which is actually faster than the top speed combat fighters could achieve in World War Two.
The Boeing 747 has a cruise speed of 550 miles per hour, which is actually faster than the top speed combat fighters could achieve in World War Two.


If having a pilot on board is not a criteria, then the X-43 is said to be the fastest airplane in the world. The X-43 is an unmanned scramjet that launches not from the ground but from a B-52 bomber at about 40,000 feet (12.2 km) in the air. On 16 November 2004, the X-43 reached about 7,000 miles (11,265 km) per hour, according to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), although some reports have put the speed even higher.

Though not the world's absolute fastest aircraft, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor can accelerate to and sustain supersonic speeds without the use of its afterburners.
Though not the world's absolute fastest aircraft, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor can accelerate to and sustain supersonic speeds without the use of its afterburners.

North American X-15

If the type of engine is not limited to jet-powered engines, then the North American X-15 is the fastest airplane. Powered by a rocket engine, the X-15 is said to have reached a speed of 4,520 miles (7,274 km) per hour. Like the X-43, it is launched mid-air from a B-52. The X-15 has achieved an altitude record of 67 miles (107.8 km) on 22 August 1963, earning some of its pilots the designation of "astronaut" by the U.S. Air Force (USAF). The X-15 is powered by a rocket engine, however, so it is technically half-rocket, arguably eliminating it from being called the fastest airplane in the world.

Falcon HTV-2

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has tested an unmanned hypersonic glider that could be considered the fastest airplane in the world. Launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a Minotaur IV rocket on 11 August 2011, the Falcon HTV-2 reached a speed of about 13,000 miles (20,921.5 km) per hour. First tested in 2010, the Falcon HTV-2's second test flight ended when DARPA lost contact with it about nine minutes into a scheduled 30-minute flight and it automatically crashed itself into the Pacific Ocean. The Falcon HTV-2 was part of a project to develop an aircraft that could reach anywhere in the world in less than an hour.

Both the X-43 and X-15 aircraft are launched from the air by a B-52.
Both the X-43 and X-15 aircraft are launched from the air by a B-52.

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Discussion Comments


Darpa Falcon: Mach 20


Do you think we have reached the capability of what metal alloys we have on earth and how fast we can make a plane fly? The Concorde was retired but had a cool run. SR-71 Blackbird had its run and is retired or is it. Perhaps we have reached are technological max with what are brains, computers, and resources we have on this earth. Cars, flight, machines of war, radio, sonar, radar, T.V., flat screens, LED, computers, the internet. We're still using oil, gasoline and diesel engines. Will all electric be next or are we nostalgic for the past and retro? We're still using bullets and scalpels. I thought lasers would have taken over for scalpels and bullets. Perhaps we're stuck in why fix what isn't broken. Cancer, AIDS, Ebola, the common cold. Are we going to have great things created in science, medicine, construction, machines, etc. and how long will it take to get there?

So much happened in the 20th century. The 21st century seems like its taking longer for great innovations or maybe I can't see it until I'm further in the 21st century. We're still using the M-16, AR-15, M4 in all its variations with pretty much the same bullets. We have to use full metal jacket ammo, not hollow point because of the Geneva Convention. We're using a rifle caliber 5. 56mmX45mm that is basically a center fire .22 round that I can't use to kill deer because it's too small and inhumane to use on deer, but it's okay to shoot humans with it, which usually wounds the enemy and takes multiple rounds to bring a man down. Special Forces units can use whatever they want and they do.

In the past, we had rifles firing 7.62mm x51mm and this is a powerful good round to use to kill humans and will easily kill deer. There are some good rifles chambered in this caliber and approved by NATO. I don't really like NATO but that's for other reasons. Our enemy uses the AK47 chambered in 7.62 mmx39mm Russian round and it kills and wounds very well and will kill a deer. Yes, in Afghanistan, some enemy fighters are using the AK74 chambered in 5. 45mmx39mm and it is also like a .22 center fire compared to our M-16 round. I'm just surprised we're not further ahead in everything.

Perhaps I've seen too many movies and T.V. and articles about the future. I could go on and on, but I shall stop here and let greater minds think up new ideas.


I would like to point out that on its final flight, the SR-71 flew from Marysville, Ca. to Warner Robins Ga., a distance of 3025 miles, in 54 minutes, takeoff to touchdown. That puts it very close to mach 5.

Also in testing or in some cases pilots playing around, mach 5 was routinely exceeded and its absolute top speed is still classified.


For people saying that a space shuttle is the fastest manned aircraft, well it's not. Because a space shuttle is a spacecraft, not an aircraft.


The thing about us being able to see military bases is that the government knows when these satellites are flying over head, and they will hide anything they do not want us to see.


The Space Shuttle is the fastest manned aircraft, at over 20 mach.


An sramjet is not a plane; it's an sramjet. Plus the SR-71 blackbird is the fastest plane made more than one or two times. The SR-71 is also the coolest.


In the Vietnam War, the Navy used F-4s with a after burner on them, and when the pilots came out over the coastline going back to the carrier, they would fire the Russian missile "Sam" at them. The air controller could see the missile leave the ground, and would tell the pilot when the missile got within one mile. He would kick in the afterburner and run off and leave the missile. How do I know it is still classified?


Actually, if you wish to be that technical about the speed of the earth, you must factor in the rate the solar system orbits the galactic center.


Actually Spaceship earth is the fastest. We are booking through space at 67,000 mph while spinning at 1,040 mph. Now that is cool.


And the SR-71 outruns missiles not because it is faster, which it isn't, but because it flies higher than the missiles maximum altitude. The maximum operational ceiling of the SR-71 isn't even able to be correctly determined and max altitude statistics aren't correct because they aren't recorded in combat situations where missiles launched at the Blackbird required evasive maneuvers.


The SR-71 is the fastest plane int the world. Do you really think the government could hide something like a plane from us? In an age where people can find "secret" military bases on google maps, don't you think someone would have spotted it by now? The amount of engineering that went into the SR-71 was incredible by anyone's standards. Nothing built today can compare in terms of speed.


To "A fighter Jock": Look up the Mig 25 Foxbat, it could go over Mach 3 much lower.


Lockheed A-12 Mach 3.3. The A-12 was the CIA's forerunner to the SR-71


The SR71 Blackbird is never flown at 8.7 mach as mentioned before. It's fastest record is 3.2 mach only, i.e., 2200mph. It holds two crews at a time.


i've only heard of the aurora going to mach 5.2 which is around 4,000 miles per hour the fastest plane although not technically built, it is real


SR-71 is the fastest manned plane in the world, as it can actually take off and land on its own. The rest are rockets or experiments.


it might not be officially real but apparently the aurora jet can go up to mach 20.


I wonder if the SR71 could still survive today. The deal in the 60's through the 80's was that when a radar station saw the plane, it was too late to launch a missile and get it targeted from that station.

Today, with modern computer networks, I ponder if one radar station could spot the plane and then tell the next station where it is going to be before it actually shows up. Like they say, you can outrun a cop car, but you can't outrun the radios.


You guys really think that plane built in the 50's or 60's(SR-71) is still the fastest plane we have to offer. You realize that the government hides things from its slaves, right? I guarantee you we've yet to see the fastest plane in the world and won't for a long time.


The fastest true airplane is the SR-71.

The fastest rocket plane was the X-15.

The fastest winged vehicle is the Space Shuttle.

The fastest manned vehicles were the Apollo program capsules as they returned from the moon and re-entered Earth's atmosphere. They were going over 25,000 MPH.


The SR-71 win's because it's a plane. Aero/airplane refers to a fixed winged craft that is capable of powered flight and can do so on more than one occasion, e.g., it can land and is able to take off again.


The X-15 is the fastest manned aircraft, but was experimental, hence the X designation.

The SR-71 is the fastest plane that's been in service. Crews also have to wear space suits due to the altitude it flies at to hit those speeds.

The Shuttle, however, pees rings around it, as it can get from the launch site to the abort landing site if a problem that's not fatal is discovered in 27 minutes. The abort landing site is in spain, apparently.


The problem is not the engine now; it's how to keep the airplane's skin cooled down. At "max" speed the X-43 was destroyed because of heat. In short, we need new metal alloys.


It's surprising! I never heard about the X-43, but the Lockheed Martin SR-71 is the fastest as far as my knowledge is concerned.


The SR-71 blackbird does not go Mach 8.73!


but what do you consider a rocket?


People are getting confused because the third post says 1.6mbps when it's actually .625 mps or 1 mile every 1.6 seconds as the fifth post states.


So how long does it take for an X-15 to travel from New York to Los Angeles?

For the X-33 at mach 15 how many miles per hour will this be? Curious what is the fastest ever achieved by a man made machine, i.e., rocket, missile...


To the person who got 5760 - your reasoning is incorrect. It's 1 mile / 1.6 seconds. So to get mph, you take 3600 sec/hr (60x60) and divide by 1.6 sec, to get 2250 mph.

Unfortunately, Mach (speed of sound) varies with air temperature. In dry air at 68°F, it's 768mph. But at 40,000 feet, the air very cold, about -70°F, and Mach 1 = 660mph.

So to get the speed in Mach, you divide the 2250mph by the Mach speed (let's say 660mph at altitude), to get Mach 3.4.


The SR71 Blackbird is the fastest plane, for a simple reason: it is a plane! it can take off, land and be operationally useful, while things like X-43 are just curious experiments. And by the way the speed of sound changes with altitude, so that may be a reason for the weird maths coming up in estimating Mach nr..


while the SR71 is fast, the only reasons it has not been hit by a missile is that it is in and out of range before the missile can get up to full speed.


The sr 71 moves at 3.5 mach according to the smithsonian war museum so it definitely can't out run missiles moving at 1.6 miles per second

so no3 i guess you got your math wrong.


The Space Shuttle is not an airplane - at most it's a glider.


i figured that if you said a blackbird goes at 5760 mph then if you take that number and divide it by 768 (speed of sound) then you will work out the mach speed which works out to be then that's actually 7.5 mach exactly.


the fastest plane in the world that has a pilot in it, is the x-15 which goes at 4,519 mph (7,273 km/h) manned or 6.7 mach.

it looks like a missile. well, it basically is, i guess.


I want to know what's the fastest airplane in the world in 2010?


I think the criteria for the fasted airplane should be altitude. Obviously the high altitude airplanes will win hands down to others. Any airplane which can clock 3mach below 300,000 feet should be the fastest. --A fighter Jock


mach 42.1179 x ASp 32x lr!(& x 3rd power of NA21.7 RT times x .902


maybe a piper cub, I thing they are very fast.


it's a space shuttle. it goes to speeds of mach 23.1.


the fastest plane is north American X-15 with a top speed of 7,557 kmph.


to the guy who wrote the third comment the blackbird cannot outrun every missile. there are missiles that go up to 15,000 miles per hour.


the smaller the plane, the higher risk it may be. so how true is this comment?


My friend and I were in a remote part of Northern New Mexico scouting for an upcoming Elk hunt. A large grey jet without markings came over the mountaintops and moved to the distant horizon in a sequence that was so quick it was difficult to follow. Altitude about 500ft above ground surface. Extremely loud with bomber like configuration.


I'm sorry I don't know the formula for figuring these speeds but 1.6 miles per second times 60 (minutes) times 60 (hour)equals 5760. 2250 is really different. Can somebody please explain to me the formula? Sorry for my ignorance in this area.


1.6 s/mile does not come out to 5760 mph. It is 2250 mph as mentioned above.


actually it was reported it flew 1 mile every 1.6 seconds. which = 2250 mph. well above their 3.2 mach limit


The x-33 exceeds speeds of Mach 15.

mach 15 = 5 104.35 m / s


The SR71 Blackbird has outrun missiles shot at it... every missile. Speeds reported at 1.6 miles per second, works out to 5760 miles per hour, Mach 8.73... Yes, it's the fastest.


I don't know about this.... I make a pretty fast paper airplane! ;)

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