It is fairly well known that the SR-71 holds the record for highest speed for a traditional aircraft (not a rocket/able to land and takeoff under its own power). However since the SR-71 flies much higher than other aircraft its indicated airspeed is comparatively low.

I was wondering what the fastest indicated airspeed achieved is and by which aircraft?

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    $\begingroup$ The highest would probably be when Space Shuttle lands into the atmosphere deep enough to be called an aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – h22
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 10:17
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    $\begingroup$ Touch I would not call the Space Shuttle a "traditional aircraft"... $\endgroup$
    – tsg
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 10:30
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    $\begingroup$ @tsg A flying (falling) brick with winglets is still an aircraft I guess. $\endgroup$
    – GittingGud
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ There have been a few aircraft that could get well above speed of sound at sea level. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 12:42
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    $\begingroup$ define "traditional aircraft". By my definition the SR-71 would classify, by yours apparently not? $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 4:08

1 Answer 1


The world low-altitude speed record was set by Darryl Greenamyer in a rebuilt F-104 on 24 October 1977 at 988.26 mph (869.67 kts; 1'590.45 km/hr) and it wasn't really at sea level (mud lake Nevada on a hot day density altitude can be quite high so we don't know KIAS exactly). That airplane is by most considered to be the fastest due to small wind and frontal area. And it might also become one of the fastest land vehicle ever as some clever guy thought that getting rid of the wings was a good idea...

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The SR-71 had a designed airspeed limit of 500KEAS. It was design for high altitude flight and they did not bother about structural strength to withstand low altitude fast flight or high g loads flight as you can see in the full flight manual.

Other jet fighter were known to fly fast at low altitude during mission like the F-4 with operating procedures of 1.34 Mach (863 mph, 759.5kts, 1,389 km/h).

Finally more recently the F-16, not known as a fast airplane was nonetheless designed the limit of 800KIAS in mind. The canopy was meant to melt at 850KIAS and the engine supposedly would blow up at 854KIAS. And numerous reports show that the pilot had to pull back the throttle in order not to exceed the 800kts limit at sea level.

The reason why we don't have higher speed recorded is just that there are no need for it, the aircraft where therefore not designed to exceed "reasonable" speed and no-one was willing to push the limit further. The risk versus benefits to bet on some engineers over-designing their aircraft so that they would fly above their limit speed is just not worth it. But I'm pretty sure if you where to "floor" a MiG-29/31 or a f15 up to failure you would certainly exceed those speed. It's like the longest flight, some records won't probably ever be tried again.

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    $\begingroup$ Re: "It's like the longest flight, some records won't probably never be tried again." Yep, just like sailplane endurance records, all you prove is that the wind can blow against a ridge for a really long time, and a pilot can stay awake for a really long time, until he doesn't. So no one keeps track of those records any more. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah but the 64days straight in a Cessna will remain my absolute favourite/supidest one ^^ $\endgroup$
    – MaximEck
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 22:00
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    $\begingroup$ "won't probably never"? $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ Typo, feel free to correct them by editing the answer if you find any more of them. $\endgroup$
    – MaximEck
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ Practically all supersonic jets are speed-limited by structural strength rather than by thrust at low (and mid) altitudes. MiG-29 and 31 are too different to be written like 29/31; perhaps 25/31 would do, but like SR-71, they were designed for high Mach rather than high IAS. MiG-29, on the other hand, is officially limited to 1500 km/h, which is 810 KIAS. $\endgroup$
    – Zeus
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 1:14

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