Technology is always improving, and the means of travel are rapidly getting faster and more efficient (if not more comfortable). While cruising high above the Earth, you might have wondered how fast you were going, and what the fastest commercial planes are today.
It might seem as though air travel evolves slowly, with new planes being introduced only every decade or so. But constant innovation and development is happening behind the scenes. Years of research and experimentation combine to create the fastest, safest, and most reliable mode of transportation. Every new generation of commercial planes improves upon the work of the previous one, and we fly blissfully ignorant among the lofty clouds and blue skies.
These planes are the ones you can actually fly on when you book a flight with any major airliner. Some are exclusive to certain companies, but they are accessible to the general public. While you don’t get to choose the type of plane you fly on when you travel, these are most likely going to be used on international flights.
There are faster planes out there, of course. Private planes, military planes, experimental planes, and other vehicles definitely travel faster. There have even been faster commercial planes in the past, like the famous Concord jet, for example. But these are the fastest planes that are in use today.
The Boeing 747-8 is the largest variant of the widely popular 747-style airliner. Boeing launched this longer version on November 14, 2005, but it didn’t complete its maiden voyage until 2010. The 747-8 was the longest airliner in the world until 2020.
The Boeing 747-8 (specifically the 747-8I variant) can fly at a cruising speed of 564 miles per hour, or at a top maximum speed of 594 miles per hour.
Its maximum take-off weight is an astounding 975,000 pounds. This makes it the heaviest airliner produced by Boeing. The final version of the 747-8 was produced and delivered in 2024. This marked the end of the 747 line of aircraft. The White House paid $3.9 billion in 2018 for two 747-8I aircraft to become the new Air Force One.
Another advanced variant of the popular 747 airliner. This version of the 747 was introduced to the world in 1988 and began flying in 1989. It can carry 416 passengers and weighs 875,000 pounds at maximum weight.
The 747-400 flies at a cruising speed of 564 miles per hour. However, it can reach a maximum speed of 607 miles per hour, which would make it the fastest airliner, but it will not fly at this speed with passengers on board.
Since its introduction, Boeing delivered 694 of the 747-400s, making it the best-selling 747 aircraft before the introduction of the 747-8.
The first plane from Airbus on our list. The Airbus A380 is the largest passenger airliner in the world, and it is the only plane to have two full-length decks. (The Boeing 747 variants only had a partial second deck toward the front of the aircraft.) Airbus announced the A380 in 2005, and it completed its first flight that same year.
The Airbus A380 cruises at a speed of 561 miles per hour. Its maximum top speed is 587 miles per hour.
The Airbus A380 is so big, it is the only aircraft with the designation “super”. It includes a bar and lounge, showers and a spa, and other amenities. It can carry a whopping 525 passengers on a typical flight but can carry up to 853 at max capacity. Throughout its service, there have been no crashes or fatalities involving the A380.
Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Boeing announced the 787 Dreamliner project in 2003. The first aircraft didn’t complete its maiden voyage until 2009. The goal of the Dreamliner airline was efficiency, with less fuel consumed per voyage when compared to aircraft of similar size and passenger loads.
The 787 Dreamliner cruises at a speed of 561 miles per hour. Its maximum speed is 594 miles per hour. It can do this while using around 21% less fuel than larger, and similar, planes. The 787 was often assigned to long international flights by airline companies that struggled to make a profit, making them more viable.
The 787 experienced several operational issues due to low-quality materials and manufacturing over its lifetime. Its lithium-ion batteries even caused several fires. At one point, the FAA even grounded all 787s until the problem could be addressed. Even so, there have been no fatalities on this plane.
Airbus announced the A350 airplane in 2004 as a response to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. The first version of the A350 completed its maiden voyage in 2013 but didn’t begin service until 2015.
There are three main variants of the A350, all of which can reach cruising speeds of 561 miles per hour. The maximum speed for the A350 is 591 miles per hour.
The Airbus A350 can carry up to 369 passengers and continues to receive regular updates and improvements. As recently as 2022, changes were announced that increased the cabin space, allowing more passengers, and weight reduction.
The Boeing 777 is also known as the ‘triple-7’ aircraft. It is the largest twin-jet airliner (all others have had four smaller jets), and the airliner with the most aircraft produced in the world. The 777 project was announced in 1990, and the first version of the 777 completed its first flight in 1994.
There are four main versions of the 777, all of which cruise at a speed of 554 miles per hour. The maximum speed of all variants is 587 miles per hour.
The 777 was the first aircraft designed using computer software, so the entire plane was designed digitally first. There was a lot of doubt about the ability of computers to design something so accurate in such detail. However, the final design exceeded everyone’s expectations and was so impressive that Boeing skipped a full-scale mockup. Not all planes are designed digitally first. Emirates is the largest operator of 777 aircraft with over 163 versions in their fleet.
The Boeing 737 is another twin-jet airliner. It made its first flight in 1967! That means the 737 is the oldest of all the aircraft on this list, and has been in service for over 50 years! The latest version, called the 737 MAX began carrying passengers in just 2017.
As of 2024, airlines have ordered over 16,054 aircraft, and orders remain strong. The Boeing 737, including all its variants, has completed over 184 million flights. It was the highest-selling aircraft until 2019 and holds the record for total most deliveries.
The Boeing 737 can reach cruising speeds of 544 miles per hour.
The Boeing 737 completes the list of fastest commercial planes in the world. One of these planes holds the top sport for fastest airliner for at least one of the major international airline companies in the world.
Honorable Mention: British Aerospace 146
The last on our list, and the only airline not produced by Boeing or Airbus. The British Aerospace 146 (or Bae 146) is a regional jet not capable of international flights. It can’t keep up with the large extra-wide body airliners but is one of the fastest regional jets. The Bae 146 the only plane on this list that has a high wing (meaning the body of the plane hangs below the wings), and a T-shaped tail. It is an extremely quiet airplane and has been marketed as the Whisperjet. In the end, it is much smaller than the other planes on this list and is used primarily as a regional carrier.
The Bae 146 usually cruises at a speed of 464 miles per hour. At its maximum power, it can reach speeds of 490 miles per hour
The Bae 146 has been adapted into many different variants and purposes. One variant includes use in firefighting. If you have seen an airplane drop red fire retardant on wildfires in America, chances are it was a Bae 146. There are 14 of these aircraft serving in firefighting operations in North America today. There are 54 Bae 146 aircraft in service around the world today.
|Boeing 787 Dreamliner
|British Aerospace 146
The photo featured at the top of this post is © pablorebo1984/iStock via Getty Images
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