Are there any sub-/transsonic planes that are able to go supersonic in a dive without damage nor losing control but can't go above Mach 1 in horizontal flight? Some planes can go into leveled supersonic flight on afterburners only, but I mean planes that don't have any.

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    $\begingroup$ Does the space shuttle count? $\endgroup$ Oct 23, 2021 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ Also, Felix Baumgartner is designed to go supersonic in a dive but not in horizontal flight, but he is a person, not an airplane. $\endgroup$ Oct 23, 2021 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ @QuadmasterXLII, designed, or evolved?! ;) $\endgroup$ Oct 23, 2021 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ Just "able to", or designed intentionally? (you use both terms, but they aren't as interchangeable as you might think) There are plenty of planes that could survive going supersonic in a dive, (the EA6B I flew being one of them, limited to subsonic when carrying any external stores...) but "designed" implies a specific mission requirement. $\endgroup$ Oct 23, 2021 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall I'd go towards designed intentionally, but if a plane can survive going supersonic in a dive it's built so that it can survive it. ;-) B737s for instance cannot go supersonic without damage and/or loss of some control. $\endgroup$
    – Giovanni
    Oct 24, 2021 at 5:17

1 Answer 1


Pretty much every early jet comes to mind. Think the Me262, the F-86, the Mig-17. All could go slightly supersonic in a dive without damage (if not kept up for long, obviously) but not in level flight.

I've heard that some jetliners can go slightly supersonic in a dive without damage. Again, only if they pull out quickly and don't stay in the supersonic regime for more than a few seconds, but I've not seen hard data on that.

I've also heard of a souped up G650 that can go supersonic in a shallow dive and and maintain that once reached in level flight and is actually rated for it with a limit of 10 minutes between inspections (iow, the certification authorities are confident it will not take damage for the first 10 minutes of supersonic flight). But that might be exageration on the part of the person who told me about it (supposedly it's a one off conversion including uprated engines, an extra fuel tank, and stronger structural beams).

I'm sure there are other examples.

  • $\begingroup$ I didn't even know there's still a civilian airplane that can go supersonic (if your source is correct about the G650). $\endgroup$
    – Giovanni
    Oct 26, 2021 at 7:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Giovanni neither did I and though my source may have misunderstood some details they're not prone to bragging. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Oct 27, 2021 at 6:06
  • $\begingroup$ Given the fact that some airliners have gone supersonic during incidents and some recovered, it may well be possible. The G650 and 700 are transsonic already anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Giovanni
    Oct 27, 2021 at 8:31

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