The fastest commercial airliner in the world
Since the advent of air travel, airliners have been in a state of rapid innovation. Aircraft speed and efficiency are always increasing as aviation companies compete to manufacture the fastest, most fuel-efficient planes in the world. Flirting with the sound barrier and producing powerful turbofan engines means that getting from A to B has never been quicker. Join Air Charter Service as we explore the fastest airliners in the world and consider what the future holds for commercial passenger planes.
How do airplanes measure speed?
There are many advantages that come with air travel: a comfortable journey with accompanying entertainment, food and beverages, and the opportunity to explore faraway destinations at an affordable price. But the biggest advantage by far is the speed at which you’re transported from one destination to the next.
The speed of a plane is measured by compiling a number of statistics. This includes the plane’s speed in knots (one knot equals one nautical mile per hour); air speed, measured with a device called a pitot tube; and the plane’s Mach number, which is relative to the speed of sound (Mach one is equal to the speed of sound, or around 767 mph). Below, we countdown the world’s five fastest airliners.
5. Boeing 777
First introduced in June 1995, the fifth fastest passenger plane on our list is the long-range, wide-body, twin engine Boeing 777. A favourite of commercial airliner heavyweights British Airways, United Airlines and Emirates, the American manufactured Boeing 777 is the world’s largest twinjet. It has a maximum capacity of 396 passengers and completes long-haul flights with ease. The Boeing 777 has a cruise speed of Mach 0.84, which is equal to 644.5 mph.
3. Boeing 787 and Airbus A380
In joint third place are airliner rivals Boeing and Airbus. Introduced in October 2011, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a mid-size, long-haul twin-engine airliner that can seat a maximum of 335 passengers and has a cruising speed of Mach 0.85 (652 mph).
Sharing the same Mach is the double-deck, wide-body, four-engine A380 from Boeing’s biggest competitor, Airbus. The European manufactured Airbus A380 is the largest passenger plane in the world, with a maximum capacity of 615 passengers. First introduced in 2007, it’s primarily used by Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa; while Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is popular with Japan Airlines, Qatar Airways and United Airlines.
2. Boeing 747-400
Our runner-up is the wide-bodied, four-engine Boeing 747-400. Boeing’s best-selling 747 model offers airlines a number of technological and structural improvements over previous models like the 747-300. The 747-400 bolts through the sky slightly faster than its competitors, boasting a speed of Mach 0.855 (656 mph). Introduced in 1989, the maximum capacity of this passenger airliner is 660 and its primary users are British Airways, Qantas and Lufthansa.
1. Boeing 747-8i
The world’s fastest aircraft also belongs to the Boeing family – the wide-body Boeing 747-8i. Also known as the 747-8 Intercontinental, this super-speedy airliner features redesigned wings, new engines and improved fuselage and efficiency; and can carry 342 passengers including eight in First Class and 92 in Business Class. The Boeing 747-8i sped into service in 2012 and eclipsed all of its competitors at Mach 0.86, equal to 659 mph.
The future of commercial airliners
Over the past century we’ve seen a change from piston-to turbine-powered planes, resulting in the production of the world’s fastest airliners to date. The next generation of planes is set to be electricity-powered, giving rise to an even faster and more environmentally sound range of airliners. In 2014, Airbus debuted their two-seat, dual electric motorized E-fan demonstrator aircraft, which went on the following year to become the first electric plane to cross the English Channel. Boeing and JetBlue have both invested in Zunum, an electric aircraft startup which not long ago revealed its plans to bring 12-passenger hybrid-electric prop planes into service by 2022.
While the sound barrier is yet to be broken by an airliner, Boom Supersonic plan to test a 55-seat, Mach 2.2 aircraft nicknamed Baby Boom by the end of 2018. Virgin Group and Japan Airlines have both invested $10 million in Boom and Japan Airlines have pre-ordered 20 aircraft, which could be in service as early as 2025. Baby Boom will become the world’s fastest commercial airliner, with a cruise speed of 1,686 mph (Mach 2.2) – more than double the speed of sound and 2.6 times the speed of its competitors. Baby Boom will halve flight times around the world, with the journey from London to New York possible in just three hours and 15 minutes – a fraction of the seven hours it takes today. Additionally, a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles will take only six hours and 45 minutes, less than half of the current 15-hour timeframe.
Baby Boom faces fierce competition from the previous world’s fastest airliner, the ultra-slick Concorde jet, which is rumoured to be making its return to the skies very soon. We could see the Concord, which equals Baby Boom’s Mach 2.2, completing journeys as soon as 2019.
Until Boom Supersonic introduces Baby Boom into service, private jet charters continue to offer passengers the fastest form of air travel. The Cessna Citation X+ is currently the fastest private jet in the world and its dual-channel FADEC-controlled Rolls-Royce AE3007C2 turbo fan engines shave hours off journeys compared to the fastest commercial airliners available.