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Flight airspeed record

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The SR-71 Blackbird is the current record holder for a manned airbreathing jet aircraft.
An air speed record is the highest airspeed attained by an aircraft of a particular class. The rules for all official aviation records are defined by Fédération Aéronautique Internationale[citation needed] (FAI), and they also ratify any claims. Speed records are divided into multiple classes with sub-divisions. There are three classes of aircraft: landplanes, seaplanes and amphibians; then within these classes, there are records for aircraft in several mass bands. There are still further sub-divisions for piston-engined, turbojet, turboprop and rocket-engined aircraft. Within each of these groups, records are defined for speed over a straight course and for closed circuits of various sizes carrying various payloads. There are still further records for the speed between specified cities such as London to New York.


Year Pilot Airspeed Aircraft Location
mph km/h
1903 Wilbur Wright 6.82 10.98 Wright Flyer Kitty Hawk, NC, USA
1905 Wilbur Wright 37.85 60.91 Wright Flyer III
1908 Henry Farman 40.26 64.79 Voisin biplane
1909 Louis Blériot 47.82 76.96 Blériot XII
1910 Alfred Leblanc 68.20 109.8 Blériot XI
1911 Edouard Nieuport 82.73 133.1 Nieuport Nie-2 N
1912 Jules Vedrines 108.2 174.1 Deperdussin Monocoque
1913 Maurice Prevost 126.7 203.8 Deperdussin Monocoque
1914 Norman Spratt 134.5 216.5 RAF SE.4
1918 Roland Rohlfs 163.1 262.4 Curtiss Wasp
1919 Joseph Sadi-Lecointe 191.1 307.5 Nieuport-Delage 29v
1920 Joseph Sadi-Lecointe 194.5 313.0 Nieuport-Delage 29v
1921 Joseph Sadi-Lecointe 205.2 330.3 Nieuport-Delage
1922 Billy Mitchell 224.3 360.9 Curtiss R-6
1923 Alford J. Williams 267.2 430.0 Curtiss R2C-1
1924 Florentin Bonnet 278.5 448.2 Bernard Ferbois V2
1927 Mario de Bernardi 297.8 479.3 Macchi M.52
1928 Mario de Bernardi 318.6 512.7 Macchi M.52bis
1929 Giuseppe Motta 362.0 582.6 Macchi M.67
1931 George H. Stainforth 407.5 655.8 Supermarine S.6B seaplane Lee-on-the-Solent, UK
1933 Francesco Agello 424 682 Macchi M.C.72 seaplane
1934 Francesco Agello 440.6 709.0 Macchi M.C.72 seaplane
1935 Howard Hughes 352 566 Hughes H-1 Racer landplane
1939 Fritz Wendel 469.22 755.13 Me 209 V1 Augsburg
1941 Heini Dittmar 623.65 1003.67 Rocket powered - Not an Official FAI record but over the 3 km FAI distance Messerschmitt Me 163A V4 Peenemünde[1][2][3]
1944 Heinz Herlitzius 624 1004 Not an Official FAI record Messerschmitt Me 262 S2 Leipheim [4]
1944 Heini Dittmar 702 1130 Rocket powered - Not an Official FAI record Messerschmitt Me 163B V18 Lagerlechfeld [5]
1945 H. J. Wilson 606.4 975.9 Gloster Meteor F Mk4 Herne Bay, UK
1946 Edward Mortlock Donaldson 615.78 990.79 Gloster Meteor F Mk4 Littlehampton, UK
1947 Col. Albert Boyd 623.74 1003.60 Lockheed P-80R Shooting Star Muroc, California, USA[6]
1947 Cmdr. Turner Caldwell 640.67 1031.32 Douglas Skystreak Muroc, California, USA
1947 Chuck Yeager 670.0 1078 Bell X-1- Rocket powered - not an official FAI C-1 record Muroc, California, USA
1948 Maj. Richard L. Johnson, USAF 670.84 1079.6 North American F-86A-3 Sabre Cleveland, USA[7]
1952 J. Slade Nash 698.5 1,124.1 North American F-86D Sabre Salton Sea, USA
1953 William Barnes 715.7 1,151.8 North American F-86D Sabre Salton Sea, USA
1953 Neville Duke 727.6 1,171 Hawker Hunter F Mk3 Littlehampton, UK
1953 Mike Lithgow 735.7 1,184 Supermarine Swift F4 Castel Idris, Tripoli, Libya
1953 James B. Verdin, US Navy 753.4 1,213.0 Douglas F4D Skyray Salton Sea, USA
1953 Frank K. Everest USAF 755.1 1,215.3 North American F-100 Super Sabre Salton Sea, USA
From this point records are set at altitude and not sea level.
1955 Horace A. Hanes 822.1 1,323 North American F-100C Super Sabre Palmdale, USA
1956 Peter Twiss 1,132 1,822 Fairey Delta 2 Chichester, UK
1957 USAF 1,207 1,942 McDonnell F-101A Voodoo Edwards Air Force Base, USA
1958 Cap. WW Irwin, USAF 1,404 2,259.5 Lockheed F-104C Starfighter Edwards Air Force Base, USA
1959 Col. Georgii Mosolov 1,484 2,388 Ye-66 (proto Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21) USSR
1959 Maj. Joseph Rogers, USAF 1,525.9 2,455.7 Convair F-106 Delta Dart Edwards Air Force Base, USA
1961 Robert B. Robinson, US Navy 1606.3 2585.1 Modified McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II Edwards Air Force Base, USA
1962 Col. Georgii Mosolov 1665.3 2680.1 Mikoyan Gurevich Ye-166 - name adopted for the record attempt, originally a version of a Ye-152 USSR
1965 Robert L. Stephens
and Daniel Andre
2,070 3,332 Lockheed YF-12A Edwards AFB, USA
1976 Capt. Eldon W. Joersz and Maj. George T. Morgan 2,194 3,530 Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird Beale AFB, USA

Official records versus unofficial

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird holds the official Air Speed Record for a manned airbreathing jet aircraft with a speed of 3,530 km/h (2,194 mph). It was capable of taking off and landing unassisted on conventional runways. The record was set on 28 July 1976 by Eldon W. Joersz near Beale Air Force Base, California, USA.[8]
For a period of time, during and immediately following World War II, the unpublicised and unofficial speed record of 1004.5 km/h (623.8 mph) set by the Messerschmitt Me 163AV4 (the third prototype) rocket aircraft, on October 2, 1941 was actually the fastest velocity any aircraft had been measured as traveling to that time. That figure, set during wartime when no records were being ratified, was achieved by the Me 163A V4 at altitude rather than sea-level as it had been towed by a Bf 110 to set the record. Many record attempts were stated as being "set" after World War II by such aircraft as the Gloster Meteor, which exceeded the 755 km/h (469 mph) velocity record of the pre-war holder (the Messerschmitt Me 209 V1 piston engined aircraft) but the first to actually exceed the Me 163 A V4 claim was the Douglas Skystreak on August 20, 1947.
The fastest manned atmospheric vehicle of all time was the Apollo command module as it returned from the moon, reaching speeds of around Mach 30. Although it used the air largely as a brake, it did also achieve a lift to drag ratio of around 0.368[9] which was used to control the flight trajectory. However this is probably very different from most people's idea of an 'aircraft'.

Other air speed records

Year Pilot Airspeed Aircraft Comments
mph km/h
1960 Ivan Soukhomline (USSR) 599 920 Tupolev Tu-95 Fastest propeller-driven aircraft
1967 'Pete' Knight 4,510 7,274 North American X-15 Rocket plane; incapable of breathing air
1981-present Multiple 17,500 28,000 Space Shuttle Speed attained during atmospheric reentry
August 11, 1986 John Egginton 249.1 400.87 Westland Lynx 800 G-LYNX Fastest helicopter
December 31, 1988 L.P. Krantov 258.8 415 Tupolev Tu-134A Fastest landing speed record (76 passengers aboard, no one harmed)[10]
August 21, 1989 Lyle Shelton 528 850 F8F Bearcat Rare Bear Fastest straight-line piston-engined aircraft
December 22, 2006 Klaus Ohlmann & Matias Garcia Mazzaro 190.6 306.8 Schempp-Hirth Nimbus-4DM Fastest gliding aircraft
November 16, 2004 Unmanned 7,546 12,144 NASA X-43A Air-launched hypersonic scramjet

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