Life is moving faster than ever before. Now 2019 is about to get a whole lot faster as airlines respond to the demand to fly passengers to their destinations on the fastest commercial aircraft in the world.
4. Boeing 777 (644 mph).
First introduced in June 1995, the fifth fastest passenger plane on our list is the long-range, wide-body, twin engine Boeing 777. The American manufactured Boeing 777 is the world’s largest twin-jet and it’s a favorite of commercial airliner heavyweights British Airways, United Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Emirates. It has a maximum capacity of 396 passengers and completes long-haul flights with ease. The Boeing 777 has a cruise speed of Mach 0.84.
The 777 is the most-produced Boeing wide-body jet, surpassing the Boeing 747. As of January this year, about 60 customers had placed orders for 2,013 aircraft of all variants, (with 1,584 aircraft already delivered) since commercial service of the jet began with United Airlines in 1995. The 777 also has the honor of being the first commercial aircraft to be designed entirely by computer. A 3D CAD software system, sourced from Dassault Systemes and IBM, was used to create design drawings of the 777. The system was groundbreaking in that it allowed engineers to assemble a virtual aircraft, in simulation. Being able to check for interference and ensure that the thousands of parts fit properly substantially reduced costly rework on the plane.
3. Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 (652 mph).
Boeing 787 preparing for a landing at the airport.Boeing 787 preparing for a landing at the airport.
Airbus A380 flying with a blue sky in the background.Airbus A380 flying with a blue sky in the background.
In joint third place are airliner rivals Boeing and Airbus. Introduced in October 2011, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a mid-size, long-haul twin-engine airliner that can seat a maximum of 335 passengers and has a cruising speed of Mach 0.85. The 787 is 20% more fuel efficient than the Boeing 767, which it was designed to replace. The aircraft’s distinguishing features include mostly electrical flight systems, raked wingtips, noise-reducing chevrons on its engine nacelles, and cabin windows that are larger than any other civilian plane in service or in development. Window dimensions are 10.7 inches by 18.4 inches with a higher eye level so passengers can retain a view of the horizon. Since 2011, Boeing has reportedly spent $32 billion on the 787 program. In 2018, the valuation for a new 787-9 was $145 million; an increase from $135 million in 2014.
Sharing the same Mach is the double-deck, wide-body, four-engine A380 from Boeing’s biggest competitor, Airbus. The European manufactured Airbus A380 is the largest passenger plane in the world, with a maximum capacity of 853 passengers. Powered by four Engine Alliance GP7200 or Rolls-Royce Trent 900 turbofans, this behemoth has a range of 8,000 nautical miles. The aircraft is primarily used by Emirates (123 aircraft on order), Singapore Airlines, and Lufthansa; while Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is popular with Japan Airlines, Qatar Airways, and United Airlines.
Costs involved in the €9.5 billion A380 project – launched in December 2000 – rose to €18 billion when challenges around the aircraft’s electrical wiring resulted in a two-year delay. Production of the A380 peaked in 2014 at 30 aircraft a year, but Airbus now believes that their investment in the development of the jet will never be recouped. Production of the last Airbus A380 is intended for 2021.
2. Boeing 747-400 (656 mph).
Boeing 747-400 preparing for take off on runway.Boeing 747-400 preparing for take off on runway.
Our runner-up is the wide-bodied, four-engine Boeing 747-400. Boeing’s best-selling 747 model offers airlines a number of technological and structural improvements over previous models like the 747-300. These include six-foot winglets mounted on six-foot wing tip extensions, a two-crew glass cockpit (negating the need for a flight engineer), engines with increased fuel efficiency, an optional fuel tank in the horizontal stabilizer, and revised fuselage/wing fairings. The jet’s interior boasts an upgraded in-flight entertainment architecture and can accommodate a maximum 660 passengers in a high-density one-class configuration.
The new engines – Pratt & Whitney PW4056, General Electric CF6-80C2B1F, and Rolls-Royce RB211-524G/H – have lowered fuel consumption and produced more thrust, along with a full-authority digital engine control (FADEC). The 747-400 bolts through the sky slightly faster than its competitors, with a speed of Mach 0.855. Introduced in 1989, the maximum capacity of this passenger airliner is 660 and its primary users are British Airways, Qantas and Lufthansa. Popular as a long-haul aircraft, the 747-400 can fly non-stop for up to 7,670 nautical miles.
1. Boeing 747-8i (659 mph).
Boeing 747-8i air taxi preparing for takeoff. Boeing 747-8i air taxi preparing for takeoff.
The world’s fastest aircraft also belongs to the Boeing family – the wide-body Boeing 747-8i. Also known as the 747-8 Intercontinental, this super-speedy airliner features redesigned wings, new engines, and improved fuselage and efficiency; and can carry 342 passengers including eight in First Class and 92 in Business Class. The Boeing 747-8i sped into service in 2012 and eclipsed all of its competitors at Mach 0.86.
In the aviation industry’s version of a celebrity feud, the 747-8i has been in competition with Airbus A380 on long-haul routes. Boeing says its plane is 10% lighter per seat and consumes 11% less fuel per passenger than the A380 – which means a trip-cost reduction of 21% and a seat-mile cost reduction of around 6%.