Supersonic Flight

What is the fastest aircraft?

From 1973 to 2000, the Concorde was a symbol of fast and expensive air travel for business people. The plane was a fast but inefficient plane that could carry 78 passengers. The sleek, delta wing design and pinpoint nose, which tilts down during liftoff and landings, could achieve speeds of up to Mach 2.2 at 15,240 meters (50,000 feet) above sea level. But an accident involving a landing wheel, which killed all 109 passengers and crew, grounded the Concorde. Over the next sixteen months the plane was extensively renewed and tested. Unfortunately, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, reduced the demand for fast flights. Both British Airways and Air France suspended commercial flights. The remaining twelve aircraft are in museums around the world.

Just like Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1, which was the first plane to break the sound barrier, the X-15A-2, the fastest aircraft ever built, was dropped from the belly of a B-52 bomber. When released, the X-15A-2’s rockets ignited, taking it to a maximum speed of 4,534 miles per hour. That speed, which is equivalent to 7,297 kilometers per hour, is Mach 6. The X-15 series flew 199 flights before being retired in 1969. The SR-71 (blackbird) was the fastest known aircraft that can take off under its own power. It was retired in 1998.


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