The fastest aircraft have been developed by designers primarily through the use of more powerful engines and the reduction of drag through aerodynamic engineering.
When aircraft engineers discovered the "area rule", it was possible to develop the fastest aircraft. "Area rule" is the contouring of an aircraft fuselage to have the lowest possible trans sonic wave drag. It results in a narrowing of the fuselage where it joins with the wings.
Engine technology has continued to improve for the fastest aircraft. The power of jet engines was boosted with the advent of afterburners.
Originally the fastest aircraft primarily used aluminum and magnesium in their construction. Today's fastest aircraft incorporate magnesium alloys and specially formulated steel along with carbon and graphite composite materials.
The fastest aircraft need a better way to control them than the mechanical linkages of older aircraft. Today's fastest aircraft use computers and fly-by-wire controls. Electronics, rather than linkages, control the fastest aircraft.
We have tried to assembled the most comprehensive list of every type of fastest aircraft. If you have any suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Join the discussion. Comments are at the bottom of the page.
NOTE: Fastest aircraft listed by decade can be found on the bottom half of the page.
BY SPEED - All speeds are official records unless otherwise noted.
Number 1: NASA Space Transportation System vehicle 17,500 mph. The STS, more commonly known as the Space Shuttle, achieved its maximum speed upon leaving earth orbit. Its final landing was on July 18, 2011.
Number 2:13,000 mph - unofficial record - The pilotless glider was launched at about 115,000 feet from a rocket on Aug. 11, 2011.
Number 3: X43A Scramjet - 7,500 mph. It is the world's fastest air breathing engine vehicle and is pilotless. The record was set on Nov. 16, 2004.
North American X-15
Number 4: NASA manned rocket powered X-15 4,520 mph - on October 3, 1967. The North American X-15 was produced to explore the limits of sub-orbital supersonic flight. Three were produced. They flew a total of 199 times.
Number 5: Boeing X-51 - 3,400 mph or Mach 5.1 (not a record) - On May 1, 2013 the U.S.A.F. announced that they had successfully launched a Boeing X-51 from under the wing of a B-52 when it reached an altitude of about 50,000 feet. The Boeing X-51 was attached to a rocket that accelerated to about Mach 4.5. Then, under its own power, the 25 foot long pilotless vehicle continuted to accelerate to Mach 5.1 over 230 miles for about 5 minutes before ending up in the ocean. The purpose of such a test is to determine the possibility of using so called "waverider" type vehicles, that mix air from the atmosphere with on board jet fuel, as weapons for the military. The advantage of such a vehicle is that it should be able to travel faster and be lighter than rocket powered vehicles. At this time, controlling such vehicles so that they will be practical is in the development stage.
Number 6: Lockheed Blackbird fastest jet - 2,193 mph on July 28, 1976. The SR-71 first flew in December of 1964 and was deployed in March of 1968. It was retired in 1998. In 1976 it set the current world speed record for a jet aircraft.
Number 7: Ye-155 - 2,170 mph, unofficial speed record, observed on Nov. 12, 1971. The Ye-155 prototype for the MiG-25 set numerous records. The MiG-25 was produced for both interception and recon. During the first Gulf War a MiG-25 downed an American F-18. Its recommended top speed is limited to keep its engines from wearing out prematurely, but its top speed has been observed in emergency situations.
Number 8: Bell X2 2,094 mph on Sept. 7, 1956 unofficial fastest aircraft record. The Bell X-2 was the first manned aircraft ever to exceed Mach 3.
Number 9: Mikoyan Ye-152 - 1,666 mph on July 7, 1962. Experimental single engine prototype. The MiG-25 was developed from it.
Number 10:F-4 Phantom 1,607 mph on Nov. 22, 1961. The F-4 Phantom achieved the most U.S. air-to-air victories during the Vietnam War and was used by both the U.S. Navy and U.S.A.F.
Number 11:Convair F-106 1,526 mph on Dec. 15, 1959. Fastest single engine production aircraft, it was the last interceptor aircraft of the U.S.A.F.
Number 12:MiG-21 Fishbed 1,484 mph on Oct. 31, 1959. Set by a modified version of the MiG-21, designated Ye-66.
Number 13:F-104 Starfighter 1,404 mph on May 18, 1958. The Starfighter set numerous speed and other records, and held several simultaneously.
Number 14:F-101 Voodoo 1,208 mph on Dec. 12, 1957. The U.S. Air Force F-101 was eventually used for a variety of missions, where its speed was an asset.
Fairey Delta 2
Number 15: Fairey Delta 2 - 1,132 mph on March 10, 1956. The British Fairey Delta 2 was a single engine jet powered experimental aircraft, the first to fly at 1,000+ mph.
F-100 Super Sabre
Number 16:F-100 Super Sabre 823 mph Aug. 20, 1955. The Super Sabre was the first U.S.A.F. aircraft capable of supersonic speeds in level flight.
Number 17: F4D Skyray 753 mph on Oct. 2, 1953. The Skyray was a U.S. Navy aircraft that could go supersonic without diving. It is the first Navy aircraft, taking off from an aircraft carrier, to set an official speed record.
Number 18: Supermarine Swift 736 mph on Sept. 26, 1953. The British built Swift was not a successful design. It did, however, set a world speed record.
Number 19:Hawker Hunter 728 mph on Sept. 7, 1953. The Hunter was the fastest British produced aircraft when first flown, setting a number of speed records.
Number 20: F-86D Sabre 716 mph on July 16, 1953. The Sabre was capable of supersonic speeds in a dive.
Number 21:Me-163 Komet 702 mph unofficial record on Sept. 7, 1946. The German Me-163 was a rocket powered bomber interceptor.
Number 22:Bell X-1 670 mph on Oct. 14, 1947. It was a rocket powered aircraft that helped lay the foundation for jet powered supersonic flight.
Number 23: Douglas D-558 651 mph on Aug. 25, 1947. The early jet powered experimental aircraft contributed greatly to the knowledge of trans-sonic aircraft performance.
P-80 Shooting Star
Number 24:Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star 624 mph on June 19, 1947. The P-80 was the fastest and most successful U.S. jet aircraft of its time.
Number 25:Me-262 - 624 mph unofficial speed record in late 1944. The German Me-262 twin jet engine powered fighter aircraft is said to have achieved a number of unofficial speed records. Although the aircraft was probably the fastest jet to fly in WWII, many doubt that it was capable of controlled flight at speeds much greater than 540 mph.
Number 26:Gloster Meteor 616 mph on Sept. 7, 1946. The Gloster Meteor was Great Britain's first operational jet fighter.
Number 27:Dassault Falcon 7X 615 mph ground speed on May 2, 2014. The Falcon 7X set a speed record of 5 hours 54 minutes from Teteboro Airport, New York to London City Airport, England.
Number 28: Tupolev Tu-114 Fastest Turboprop passenger aircraft- 545.07 mph still standing world speed record set on April 9, 1960. It was deployed with Aeroflot Russian Airlines in 1961 and retired in 1975.
Number 29:F-8F Bearcat Fastest single piston engine aircraft - 528 mph on Aug. 21, 1989. No other piston engine fighter planes were built by Grumman after the Bearcat.
Number 30: Me-209 469 mph world speed record on April 26, 1939 that stood for some 30 years. The German built aircraft were produced as experimental racers.
Macchi Castoldi MC-72
Number 31:MC-72 441 mph on Oct. 23 1934, still standing. The Italian built MC-72 is the fastest piston engine driven seaplane.
RC Speed Record Plane
Number 32: Fastest RC jet - 744 kph, about 462 mph. Niels Herbrich set the Guinness world record on June 11, 2016 with his scratch built turbine powered jet.
Number 33:Hughes H-1 352 mph unofficial world speed set during its first flight on Sept. 13, 1935.
Number 34: Sikorsky S-69 302.5 mph (never attempted as a speed record) The S-69 was a rotorcraft using turbojets for forward movement and helicopter rotors primarily for lift. It first flew in 1977 and could exceed 300 mph in a seven degree dive.
Number 35:Sikorsky X-2 Fastest rotorcraft - 300.1 mph unofficial record set on 9/15/2010. The X-2 has its two main rotor blades turning in opposite directions for lift and uses a pusher prop to achieve its forward speed.
Lynx Helicopter ZB-500
Number 36:Lynx Helicopter ZB-500 Fastest helicopter - 249.09 mph set by a specially modified helicopter on 8/11/86. The first Lynx flew in March of 1971 and are known for their reliability and ruggedness. They are now sold worldwide for civil and military aviation.
Number 37: Nimbus 4 191 mph The fastest motor glider set the still-standing record on 12/22/2006.
Number 38: Pioneer 300 155 mph - A modified Pioneer 300 set the manned electric powered aircraft speed record of 155 mph on 6/12/09.
Royal Aircraft Factory SE5
Number 39:Royal Aircraft Factory SE5136 mph unofficial record on 11/22/1916. The British S.E. 5, when fitted with the Viper engine, was among the fastest aircraft of WWI.
Wright Flyer III
Number 40: Wright Flyer III 35 mph unofficial record. The improved version of the original Wright Flyerreached its fastest speed ever on 10/4/1905.
FASTEST AIRCRAFT IN THEIR CLASS (listed by date and alphabetically):
Fastest Aircraft Currently in Service:
Number 41:A-10 Warthog 440 mph. The only U.S. anti-tank, anti-armor aircraft jet fighter flying today.
B-29 Superfortress 357 mph. Fastest WW Two heavy bomber, first deployed in 1945, they stayed in service until 1960.
Hawker Sea Fury 460 mph. The world's fastest production single piston engine aircraft produced in Great Britain, deployed from 1945 to 1953. Heavily Modified Sea Fury aircraft can be seen today as air racers.
Heinkel He-162 562 mph. Arguably the fastest WW II jet fighter. Few were produced by Germany prior to the end of WWII in 1945.
MXY7 Ohka 535 mph Fastest ever WW II Japanese rocket powered aircraft produced for Kamikaze attacks in 1945.
Do-335 Pfeil 474 mph. Fastest twin prop and fastest WW II prop driven airplane, produced by Germany in small numbers from 1944 to 1945.
Ryan FR-1 Fireball 426 mph. It was the fastest combined jet and propeller powered military fighter aircraft. The FR-1 first flew in 1944 and was retired in 1947.
Republic P-47M Thunderbolt 473 mph. A total of 130 were deployed in Great Britain just prior to the end of World War II. Their engines produced 2,800 hp using water injection (emergency war power). The aircraft were lightened by reducing their machine guns from eight to six.
North American P-51 Mustang 437 mph. The fastest long range WW II military fighter aircraft, it was first deployed in 1942, with the last Mustang retired from active military service in 1984. Many civilian aircraft still fly today. The P-51 Mustang "Voodoo" holds the unofficial world speed record of 531.53 MPH.