Have you ever been in a plane and wondered: how fast do planes fly? It sure doesn’t feel like you’re going fast while inside the aircraft. But that’s because most planes fly at a constant speed, once at cruising altitude.

A commercial plane flying fast at Altitude - How fast do planes fly?

You’ll feel the acceleration as you take off, just like you would when you accelerate in a car. But once you reach a constant speed, it feels like you’re not moving.

So you might be surprised to hear that a commercial aircraft flies at a higher speed, nearly 10 times the speed of a car on the highway.

Commercial aircraft fly at approximately 900 km per hour or 550 miles per hour. This is their cruising speed, which describes the speed of the plane once it reaches its maximum altitude.

Speed by airplane type

Commercial airliners like the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 are built to carry passengers and cargo over long distances fast, typically cruising around 550-600 miles per hour or 885-965 kph. 

Military fighter jets like the F-16 and F-35 are designed for speed and agility, reaching speeds of over 1,500 miles per hour (2400 kph) and used for air-to-air combat, ground attack missions, and reconnaissance. 

As far back as the late 1960s, the SR-71 Blackbird set the speed record of Mach 3.3 (2,193 mph / 3,530 kph). Both the A-12 Oxcart and the SR-71 Blackbird have speed records, and both achieved speeds of Mach 3.3 (2,193 mph / 3,530 kph). The SR-71 Blackbird was a military aircraft specifically designed for flight at over Mach 3, with a flight crew of two in tandem cockpits.

As the air entered the engine, it slowed to subsonic speed due to the aerodynamics of the air intakes. The aircraft’s speed itself was designed to maximize its efficiency at Mach 3.2. The SR-71 Blackbird was a remarkable achievement in aviation technology, and its speed record is a testament to the ingenuity and innovation of the engineers and designers who created it.

Did you know that the North American X-15 is currently the fastest plane in the world? It set a record of reaching Mach 6.7, which translates to a speed of approximately 4,500 miles per hour or 7,200 kilometers per hour.

Jet planes and military jets obviously need more power (known for their speed and power) to achieve maximum efficiency at high speeds and even going supersonic. Smaller passenger-style jets routinely have a cruising speed of about Mach 0.75-0.78 and typically fly only up to about 40,000+ feet.

Business jets, such as the Gulfstream G650 and Bombardier Global 7500, are designed for executives and other high-level personnel who must travel quickly and comfortably, cruising around 500-600 miles per hour or about 900 kph. 

General aviation planes, aircraft types such as Cessnas and Pipers, are smaller planes used for personal and recreational flying, with a cruising speed of around 100-200 miles per hour or with top speeds of 160-320 kph.

The four different types of airspeed

Indicated airspeed (IAS) is the aircraft’s speed, which is read off the airspeed indicator in the cockpit and is what pilots reference when making speed changes. Accurate speed readings are essential for pilots to make informed decisions and ensure the safety of their passengers and crew.

True airspeed (TAS) is the actual speed of the airplane relative to the air mass in which it is flying. This is important for pilots to know because air mass can affect the speed and performance of the plane. For example, if the plane is flying into a headwind, the true airspeed will be slower than indicated airspeed. Understanding true airspeed helps pilots make adjustments to their flight plan and ensure that they arrive at their destination safely and on time.

Groundspeed (GS) is the movement of the airplane relative to the aircraft’s ground speed, and is true airspeed corrected for wind. This is especially important for pilots during takeoff and landing, as they need to know their groundspeed to ensure a safe and smooth landing. Groundspeed is also important for navigation and flight planning, as it helps pilots calculate their estimated time of arrival and adjust their flight plan if necessary.

Calibrated airspeed (CAS) is indicated airspeed corrected for instrument and position errors. This helps pilots ensure that their instruments are properly calibrated and that they are getting accurate readings. Accurate airspeed readings are crucial for pilots to make informed decisions and ensure the safety of their passengers and crew. Understanding calibrated airspeed is essential for pilots to operate their planes safely and efficiently, especially during critical phases of flight such as takeoff and landing.

How fast do planes take off?

Most commercial airplanes and jetliners take off at about 150 to 175 miles per hour or about 250 kph. Typically, the smaller the aircraft, the slower the plane has to go for takeoff. This is because smaller aircraft are lighter, so it doesn’t take as much momentum and thus more fuel just to take off. Small light aircraft take off under 100 miles per hour(160 kph); some even take off at 50 mph or 80 kph.

Take off speed does not just depend on the type or weight of the airplane. It also depends on atmospheric conditions: wind speed, outside, air pressure, temperature, wind resistance, and air density.

Fixed aircraft, like a commercial plane or jet, require air in order to generate lift and ultimately fly. So, commercial planes and jet planes fly often fly into the wind to help generate the lift needed for takeoff. A headwind will help lift the wings allowing for an efficient takeoff.

On the other hand, it is more difficult to take off with a tailwind. The back of the plane and its wings do not have the same direction of aerodynamics to help generate more lift off.

So, now you know that planes need air to generate lift for take off. But planes have difficulty taking off in warm climates because they don’t get as much lift from thin air. In cooler temperatures, the air is thick, which facilitates takeoff.

The warmer the air, the less dense it is. Warm air has less water, and is therefore less dense.

How fast does a 747 fly?

Boeing 747

The Boeing 747 flies at about 550 miles per hour (885 kph) at cruising altitude. This large aircraft takes off at 175 miles per hour to 200 miles per hour (220 kph). This is the upper limit of speed required for take off. Because of the Boeing’s sheer size, it needs quite a bit of speed to get off the ground.

Do planes fly at maximum speed?

No, planes do not always fly fast or at their maximum speed. Flying at maximum speed is incredibly fuel-inefficient. It would cost the airlines thousands of extra dollars to have commercial planes fly slower too, which would increase ticket prices. The time saved going at max speed to your destination does not justify the amount of money spent for the airline or the passengers.

Accelerating to max speed won’t be comfortable for passengers, either.

What is the fastest plane in the world today?

The fastest plane in the world today is the North American X-15. It recorded a maximum speed of Mach 6.7. The plane was flying at about 4,500 miles per hour or about 7,200 km per hour. The pilot was flying at an altitude of 102,000 feet.

How fast do planes take off from aircraft carriers?

Planes will take off from aircraft carriers at about 150 to 180 miles per hour (260 kph). Light aircraft do not need as much speed to take off; they require just 50 to 100 miles per hour (about 120 kph).

Whether a plane is taking off from an aircraft carrier or a runway in a commercial airport, the speed required is the same. It primarily depends on the sea level, various weather conditions as well other factors such as the direction and speed of the wind.

A headwind will reduce the takeoff speed of powered aircraft, because the air from opposite direction will travel under the wings and generate lift. Cooler temperatures also reduce the take off speed, thanks to the dense air that helps lift the plane.

How fast are planes going when they land?

Planes move at about 150 to 180 miles per hour (260 kph) when they land and take off. They must slow down drastically from their top speed of 500+ miles per hour to land safely and stay inside the runway.

Can a plane fly around the world in 24 hours?

Yes, but is it possible to fly around the world in 24 hours? Unlikely. This is not realistic for a commercial aircraft with passengers. The circumference of the earth is 24,901 miles (over 40,000 km). This means that the plane’s speed would need to go about 1,040 miles per hour (1675 kph) to make it around the entire Earth in one day. This is possible for a modern day jet, but most commercial aircraft fly at about 500 to 550 miles per hour (800 kph).

Today’s longest non stop commercial flights range from about 8,000 to 9,500 miles (14,500 km) in 16 to 18 hours. Flights this long are incredibly taxing on the pilots, too. They typically rotate flying duties between four people and sleep in between shifts. Adding six to eight hours to the longest flight times ever recorded would be quite the feat.

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