The history of aviation is lined with breathtaking inventions. Even in ancient times, people dreamed of doing the same as birds and finally being able to take off. However, several epochs of history had to pass before the famous Wright brothers were able to present the first motorized aircraft to the world at the end of the 19th century, which was able to remain in the air for long periods of time. Of course, the first motorized aircraft were not really fast.
In 1909, for example, Alberto Santos-Dumont was able to fly at just 90 km/h per hour in his lightweight sports aircraft. What was groundbreaking for its time, and was considered the fastest aircraft, makes one smile wearily today. After all, a lot has happened in the last 100 years when it comes to aerospace technology. Today, we want to take a look at the present and examine the fastest aircraft in the world.
How fast does an aircraft fly in km h?
Ever since it became possible for the general population to afford a flight, this means of transport has been used by many. This is hardly surprising given the convenience. While alternatives such as cars, buses, trains, or even ships require many hours of travel, it often takes only a fraction of the time by plane. This time can be better spent sipping cocktails on a white sandy beach. Of course, this time-saving is no coincidence. It is the sheer speed of the aircraft that makes it the fastest means of transport, especially to distant destinations. But how fast is an airplane?
First of all, a distinction must be made between different types of aircraft. After all, not all aircraft are the same. While gliders travel at rather leisurely speeds between 70 and 280 km/h, passenger planes reach much higher speeds. On average, they reach speeds of around 1,000 km/h. This is the so-called cruising speed, which is targeted at lofty heights. Even though it may not feel like it, passenger planes are much slower at take-off. Here, the pilot usually aims for a speed of 300 km/h.
Those who can afford it fly in an even faster private jet. The somewhat smaller aircraft of rich Hollywood stars sometimes reach over 1,100 km/h. If you take a look at military aircraft, the values of “conventional” planes seem almost laughable. For example, a spy plane from the US Air Force called the “Blackbird” can reach speeds of up to 3,530 km/h. The range of fast planes is spearheaded by so-called “rocket planes”. As the name suggests, these have a rocket engine that catapults them to speeds of nearly 12,000 km/h.
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At what speed does an aircraft take off?
In aeronautics and astronautics, an aircraft is said to take off when it is no longer in contact with the ground. This is the case when the tyres leave the ground. Officially, the aircraft has taken off when it has reached an altitude of about 10 metres. Take-off is only possible at a certain speed. How high this must be depends again on the type of aircraft. For conventional passenger aircraft, the speed is between 250 and 345 km/h. According to a rule of thumb, the required take-off speed decreases as the weight of the aircraft decreases.
For light aircraft, for example, a speed of between 80 and 150 km/h is sufficient for take-off. The reason for the big difference is a lift. For an object as heavy as a passenger plane to take off, there must be enough headwind on which the wings can glide toward the sky. When you consider that an Airbus A380, the heaviest transport aircraft in the world, weighs a maximum of 560 tonnes at take-off, it is nevertheless always a miracle when an aircraft leaves the ground and takes off.
At what speed does an aircraft break the sound barrier?
In order to break through the so-called sound barrier, an aircraft must fly at supersonic speed. This means that it must be faster than the sound itself. Although the sound barrier is literally a common term in our linguistic usage, breaking it is still a comparatively recent achievement in the history of aviation and space travel. It was not until the middle of the 20th century that scientists were first allowed to announce the breakthrough of the sound barrier and, as it were, of research into aerospace technology.
Since the sound barrier is broken, so to speak, when sound passes, one only has to look at how fast the speed of sound is. But this is not always the same. In fact, how fast sound propagates depends on the ambient temperature. In our example, we want to assume a temperature of around 20 °C. Under these conditions, sound travels at 333 m/s (1,200 km/h). This means that an aircraft must exceed this speed to break the sound barrier. As things stand, this is not possible for standard passenger aircraft.
In military technology, the situation is quite different. Since the jets used can easily reach a speed of 2,000 km/h, it is almost commonplace for experienced pilots to break through the sound barrier. But what is this ominous sound barrier all about? Before people broke through the sound barrier for the first time in an aircraft in 1947, pilots were very afraid that a wall would actually open up in the sky against which they would crash, plane and all. Fortunately, things turned out differently.
The sound barrier is only an acoustic phenomenon. Since an aeroplane with its powerful engine makes a lot of noise, this is naturally also emitted to the environment in the form of sound waves. Consequently, also to the front. But if the aircraft overtakes the waves due to supersonic speed, it squeezes the sound together, so to speak, which causes a loud bang during the overtaking process. A pilot in a jet plane will not hear this at all. It is different for people watching the supersonic aircraft from the ground.
Incidentally, it was not always the case that supersonic travel was reserved for military aircraft. The Concorde, developed in France, was once considered the fastest transport aircraft in the world. With a top speed of a remarkable 2,179 km/h, it was about twice as fast as current passenger aircraft. However, the declining demand for flights with the French supersonic aircraft caused the end of the airline.
But hopes of success with sound barrier-breaking aircraft have been rekindled in other companies. Several start-ups are currently working on models that will also fly at supersonic speeds in order to get their passengers to their destinations even faster. Thanks to sophisticated hybrid technology, they not only offer more power, but should also be more environmentally friendly in practice.
What is the fastest passenger aircraft in the world?
Even if today’s common passenger planes cannot keep up with Concorde or even jets, they still travel very fast. Let’s have a closer look at which model is considered the fastest aircraft in the world and who is close behind.
4th place: Boeing 777
The Boeing 777 was first introduced in 1995 and was touted as the ideal long-haul aircraft with plenty of interior space. It can accommodate up to 396 passengers. Well-known airlines such as Emirates, British Airways, and United Airlines rely on this passenger aircraft from the US aircraft manufacturer Boeing. Thanks to its two powerful propulsion turbines, the Boeing 777 reaches a cruising speed of 1037 km/h.
3rd place: Airbus A380 and Boeing 787
In third place are two aircraft from rivals Airbus and Boeing. Firstly, there is the Airbus A380, which is currently considered the largest passenger aircraft in the world. The interior of the multi-storey aircraft can seat up to 853 people. The engines come from Airbus’ regular manufacturer Rolls-Royce and bring the gigantic passenger aircraft to a cruising speed of 1,049 km/h. The Boeing 78 is just as fast. The Boeing 787 is just as fast. The medium-sized passenger aircraft offers space for up to 335 people and, thanks to the latest engine technology, scores points above all for its comparatively low fuel consumption.
2nd place: Boeing 747-400
With a cruising speed of about 1,055 km/h, the Boeing 747-400 takes second place in our ranking. The wide-bodied aircraft offers space for up to 660 passengers and is considered the best-seller of the US aircraft manufacturer. In particular, the modern technology, from which pilots, but also crew and passengers benefit, comes into its own here. Thanks to its efficient engines, the Boeing is not a paraffin guzzler, but comparatively economical.
1st place: Boeing 747-8i
The first place in our ranking is occupied by another aircraft from Boeing. The Boeing 747-8i is currently the fastest wide-body aircraft in the world. The reason for the cruising speed of an impressive 1,060 km/h is mainly the modern technology used here. Boeing has perfected the design so that the aircraft has the best flight characteristics. This includes not only newly developed wings. The fuselage has also been adapted so that the aircraft has the best prerequisites for efficient flight behaviour. In combination with modern engines, it is far ahead of many competitors. The passenger aircraft offers space for up to 342 passengers. How proud the USA is of its Boeing 747-8i is also made clear by the fact that with Air Force One, even the private aircraft of the US president is a Boeing 747-8i.
Which airlines pay back compensation the fastest?
Many well-known airlines have models of the above-mentioned fastest passenger aircraft in their own fleets. But a good airline does not only score with fast aircraft. If something should go wrong, it is important that passengers can rely on fast compensation. Which airlines can be relied on and which cannot? Regardless of the logo emblazoned on the aircraft, one thing is true for all airlines – they are annoyed by passenger complaints.
So it is hardly surprising that many passengers tell us that requests are sometimes ignored for months. Let’s take a look at the largest German airline, Lufthansa, as an example. It enjoys a very good reputation worldwide and scores points with its passengers, especially with punctuality. But what about complaints?
Anyone who wants to make a compensation claim against Lufthansa must first of all go through a lot of trouble to find the right form. It is not easy to find it on the company’s own website. As a rule, one has to resort to a sample letter or compile a form oneself. Once this has been done, an e-mail can be sent to the airline with the corresponding complaint.
As experience has shown, often nothing happens at first. If, contrary to expectations, you hear something quickly, you can assume that the airline wants to get out of the affair with “force majeure”. You should not be satisfied with this. It is not uncommon for air travellers to miss out on amounts in the high three-digit range. Don’t even let it get to this and consult an expert. With our convenient claim check, you are only a few clicks away from enforcing your air passenger rights.
How can Flightright help you?
You are stuck at the airport because of a flight delay? Your flight has been canceled, or you have been removed from the passenger list? In each of the situations described, you have a right to compensation as an air passenger.
According to the EU Passenger Rights Regulation, passengers are entitled to compensation in the event of a delay, cancellation, overbooking, or missed connection. You can claim up to 600 euros of compensation per person (minus commission fee). This compensation is independent of the ticket price. Flightright enforces your right for you. If necessary also in court.
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