The World’s Fastest Commercial Jet
Since the Aerospatiale Concorde entered service between 1976 and 2003, passenger jets have been cautious about pushing the boundaries of supersonic travel. However, that may be about to change.
Private jet manufacturers such as Bombardier are developing planes that can travel close to the speed of sound. These new jets will unlock tens of popular city pairs that were previously unfeasible.
Convair 990 Coronado
The Convair 990 Coronado, also known as CV-990 and CV-990A, is the fastest commercial jet in the world. The wide-body twin-engine aircraft can carry up to 342 passengers over 3,302 nautical miles and can cruise at Mach 0.85. Its GE CJ805-23B turbofan engines provide power for the aircraft and can propel it to a maximum speed of Mach 2.04 and an average speed of around 685mph.
US planemaker Convair built the aircraft after a request from American Airlines to build a fast airliner that could fly coast-to-coast. The airline wanted a plane 45 minutes faster than the Boeing 707s and Douglas DC-8s, which were popular then.
Convair decided to make several changes to the Convair 880 and created the 990 to meet its goal. This included a redesign of the fuselage and wings to boost aerodynamic efficiency. The wings featured large anti-shock bodies on the upper trailing edge to help boost critical Mach and decrease transonic drag. In addition, the airframe was designed to be as quiet as possible, and the cabin windows were made larger so that passengers could see the horizon during long flights.
The 990 was first flown on January 24, 1961. Unfortunately, the airplane failed, and only 37 examples were produced. This is partly because Boeing and Douglas offered new versions of their airliners that were more fuel efficient and had a longer range. The 990 was also expensive and less comfortable than the Boeing 707 or DC-8. Ultimately, the airliner lost its market niche and was retired in 1967.
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
The SR-71 Blackbird was an impressive spy plane that could fly at three times the speed of sound. This aircraft was able to outrun most missiles in the Cold War and was used to glean intelligence about the Soviet Union. During its service, this jet was often pushed to the limit and broke numerous records. Ultimately, this jet was retired in 1999. Today, it is displayed at various museums and military bases around the United States.
The fastest commercial jet of all time, the SR-71 Blackbird had to overcome many challenges to achieve its record-breaking speed. For example, it had to withstand extreme temperatures. To do so, the SR-71’s body was made out of titanium. This material could resist the intense heat that would normally melt other materials, such as aluminum or fiberglass. The cockpit glass was made of quartz, which could withstand high temperatures. This aircraft had to be fueled with an experimental fuel that could withstand the immense heat.
In recent years, Boeing has been working on creating a hypersonic jet that can reach Mach 5. This jet will be able to travel five times the speed of sound and could cut the flight time between London and New York by two hours. It takes six hours and 45 minutes to make the trip between the two cities.
In commercial airliners, the Boeing 777 comes in at five on our list of the fastest commercial jets. This large twin-engine aircraft is a favorite of airliner heavyweights like British Airways and United Airlines. The 777 can easily fly long-haul routes, and it can seat up to 396 passengers. This aircraft is equipped with various advanced features that help it fly at top speeds.
The Boeing 747-8i is the fastest commercial jet on the market, but many other options exist. The 787 Dreamliner, for example, is a mid-sized twin-engine airliner that can fit up to 335 passengers and boasts a cruising speed of Mach 0.85. It is also 20% more fuel-efficient than its predecessor, the 767. This airliner is currently used by airlines like Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, and Air China.
Bombardier has recently unveiled the fastest passenger plane since the Concorde. The new Global 8000 aircraft has been able to flirt with supersonic speeds during testing, and it could eventually be a regular part of the aviation world. It’s the world’s longest-range business jet, and it can travel between pairs of cities like Singapore and Los Angeles or London and Perth.
However, it’s still too expensive for the average traveler to book a flight on one of these supersonic machines. The cheapest ticket on the market for the fastest jet is around $78 million, meaning you’d have to be a very wealthy person or an extremely well-connected corporate traveler to fly this thing.
The good news is that there are a few companies that are working on hypersonic planes that will be able to break the sound barrier and reduce flight times by a significant margin. If you can’t afford to travel at supersonic speeds, the next best thing is a luxury private jet. For example, the Dassault Falcon 7X type can take you from Los Angeles to London in just two hours. That’s much faster than it takes to get to New York City from London.
One of the world’s biggest and fastest planes, the Airbus A380 is also the longest commercial jet. The double-decker plane can hold up to 853 passengers and fly at a top speed of Mach 0.85.
However, the A380 isn’t without its problems. On one flight in 2010, a Qantas A380 experienced a catastrophic engine failure just four minutes after takeoff. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Iqaluit, Nunavut, more than 4,000 miles from Sydney. The aircraft was ultimately repaired and returned to service three years later.
While the A380 isn’t as fast as the Concorde, which was supersonic and flew at speeds over twice that of sound, it is still the fastest passenger plane. In service from 1976 to 2003, the Aerospatiale Concorde had a slender frame and drooping nose, allowing it to travel at over 1,354 mph (2,179 km/h). While ticket prices were prohibitively high for most travelers, the Concorde could fly from New York to London in less than three hours – roughly half the time it takes other modern commercial airliners to do so.
In the future, Boeing hopes to create a passenger jet that will be faster than the A380. The company has announced plans for an airplane called the Overture, which will use sustainable aviation fuel to fly at about Mach 5 (one and a half times the speed of sound) while flying at a cruising altitude of 60,000 feet. The Overture will be able to travel two times faster over water than traditional passenger planes and about 20% faster over land. The prototype is expected to be ready by 2023.
The Boeing 777 is the world’s fastest commercial jet and best-selling long-range airliner. With a typical cruising speed of 745 miles per hour, this massive twinjet is a favorite among airlines with long-haul routes, such as British Airways, Emirates, and Cathay Pacific. Its large cabin can seat 328 to 394 passengers in a standard three-class seating arrangement and has a maximum capacity of 550 with high-density one-class configurations. The 777’s advanced technology includes:
A two-crew glass cockpit.
Increased fuel efficiency.
Improved in-flight entertainment architecture.
With speeds up to Mach 0.76, the 777 is powered by GEnx or Trent 1000 turbofan engines and can fly up to 8,555 nautical miles without refueling. Its carbon-fiber hybrid airframe and raked wings increase fuel efficiency and lower operating costs. In addition, the 777-200LR and -300ER models are certified for ETOPS-180, meaning they can be flown nonstop from an unpaved runway in case of a mechanical problem or inclement weather.
The next fastest aircraft is the Bombardier Global 8000, the longest-range business jet in the world. This jet broke the sound barrier during a test flight in May, flying at more than Mach 1.015 while escorted by a NASA F/A-18 Hornet fighter. The Global 8000 is set to be in service by 2025 and will allow airliners to connect city pairs like Singapore to Los Angeles and London to Perth.
There is still some work to be done in the aviation industry, and there are rumors that Boeing will create a hypersonic jet capable of traveling five times the speed of sound. If this is true, then flights from London to New York would take just over two hours—almost half the current time!