In the early 1930's aircraft were breaking records each week because the performance needed was quite low. As technology advanced the performance needed to break a record also became higher. Which causes us to ask if it was easier to break records early in the century, or later with the aid of technology.

Howard Hughes built many airplanes specifically for breaking records, yet even today the Russian and American fighter manufactures often strip down their latest fighter prototype and set new world records.

Addendum: There seems to be some confusion over what the question is asking... "most" means "total" as "aeroalias" has supplied below. The basis for the question was a YouTube video that stated the F4 Phantom had broken the most records of any aircraft, but the video was circa 1980 without specifics and it seemed there was a high probability that other aircraft had superseded it. (I would have guessed some aircraft in the 30's, therefore my keen interest in the answer)

At this point "aeroalias" is right on track...

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So, what aircraft broke the most (total) world records?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The Wright Flyer broke practically every record pertaining to successful heavier-than-air flight on its first flight. ;-) Speed, altitude, accent rate, thrust, payload... at one time, it lead the pack in all of them. (I say "practically" because you can always add qualifiers, like heaviest payload above 20,000 feet.) $\endgroup$
    – yshavit
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 4:56
  • $\begingroup$ @yshavit - I gave +1 for the humor but realistically and unfortunately for the Wright brothers there were no world records at or soon after their historic flight - Fowl! Answer disqualified! $\endgroup$
    – jwzumwalt
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 9:49

1 Answer 1


I'm not exactly sure what type of recored you are looking for (civil, military etc.), but a specially modified Su-27 claimed 41 records for altitude and rate of climb between 1986 and 1990. As globalsecurity.org notes:

Between 1986 and 1990, using a specially configured prototype aeroplane T10-15, which became known as P-42, the design bureau's test pilots established 41 IAF-registered world records of rate-of-climb and flight altitude, some of the records being absolute.

Streak flanker

P-42 Streak Flanker; image from su27flankerfamily.wordpress.com

Some of these records are given here,

On October 27 and November 15, OKB test pilot Viktor Pugachev added eight climb-to-altitude time records to the table of world achievements in just in two flights-four absolute records for land based aircraft and four records for aircraft with takeoff weight up to 35,274 lb (16,000 kg). Pugachev climbed to 9,843 ft (3,000 m) in 15.573 seconds and to 19,685 ft (6,000 m) in 37.05 seconds.

On March 10, 1987, and on March 23, 1988, test pilot Nikolai Sadovnikov flew the Sukhoi P-42 to 25,528 ft (9,000 m) in 44 seconds, 39,370 ft (12,000 m) in 55.2 seconds and 49,213 ft (15,000 m) in 70.329 seconds.

On June 10, 1987, Sadovnikov claimed a world record for a N category level flight altitude of 63,435 ft (19,335 m).

In some other publications, a number of 27 records have been reported; in either case, it is quite impressive.

  • $\begingroup$ Wonderful!!! I have just watched a YouTube on the SU-27 and record setting flights but it did not give the number of records - great research - I wonder if someone can find the F4 Phantoms achievements to compare? For example the the YouTube video mentions the F4 reaching an astonishing 98,000ft altitude record! youtube.com/watch?v=aoY1iDnayr4&t=9s $\endgroup$
    – jwzumwalt
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 9:51
  • $\begingroup$ @jwzumwalt Acccording to Boeing, F4 had set a total of 15 World records, so I guess P42 is safe :) $\endgroup$
    – aeroalias
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 12:04
  • $\begingroup$ Would be interesting to see some other plane breaking different records, all here seem about climbing. $\endgroup$
    – h22
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ @h22 this plane on 20.05.1993 set records in maximum weight lifted to 15000m altitude, maximum altitude reached with 1000 kg payload, additionally to some time-to-altitude and time-to-altitude-with-1000kg-payload records, in class C-1i - four world records in the same flight seems quite impressive to me. But most record-breaker aircraft were quite optimized in one aspect - I wouldn't expect to find a plane that held records, for example, in flight distance and top speed simultaneously. Jacks of all trades tend to be masters of none, after all. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 9:40

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