If you are a frequent flyer flying through the sky, have you ever stopped to think about how fast do commercial airlines fly? The rate at which these planes fly is a carefully calculated balance of capabilities, economics, and regulations. With this blog post, let’s understand what determines the airspeed of an aircraft and why it matters. 

Commercial Planes & Its Flying Speed

Commercial planes are non-military aircraft utilized to fly passengers from one place to another and carry freight in a scheduled manner. The movement of passengers and goods takes place between selected airports. Airlines use different models and types of airplanes depending on their flight operations and purposes. In general, they range from single-engine freighters to Airbus A380. As for speed, they range from 200 miles per hour to supersonic. 

Aircraft TypeCruising SpeedsKnotsMiles Per Hour (MPH)
Boeing 737 MAXMach 0.79453 kts521 mph
Airbus A320neoMach 0.78450 kts518 mph
Boeing 747-8Mach 0.855490 kts564 mph
Boeing 787 DreamlinerMach 0.85488 kts562 mph
Airbus A380Mach 0.85488 kts562 mph
Embraer EMB-145Mach 0.78450 kts518 mph
Concorde SST (retired)Mach 1.751,165 kts1,341 mph

How To Measure A Plane’s Speed?

An airplane’s speed is measured in several ways using different methods. It doesn’t matter which type you use; the airspeed will always be regarded as knots (unit). The following are the four types of airspeed and its meaning.

  1. Indicated Airspeed (IAS)

This one is the least complicated to understand. It is the type of speed that is measured using the pitot tube and static pressure. Pilots can refer to the airspeed indicator for measurements. The sky speed limit must not exceed 250 knots when 10,000 feet below. 

  1. True Airspeed (TAS)

It is the of an aircraft proportionate to the surrounding air pressure. The True Airspeed becomes inaccurate due to low air pressures as the plane flies to higher altitudes. The higher you fly, the fewer air molecules will be read on the pitot tube, resulting in indicated airspeed < true airspeed.  

  1. Groundspeed (GS)

This measures the aircraft’s speed in proportion to a single point on the ground. In general, the Groundspeed is actually a True Airspeed corrected for the wind. For example, if you shoot a police radar gun at a flying plane, you will measure the aircraft’s ground speed, given that you are stationary. 

  1.  Calibrated Airspeed (CAS)

Indicate airport corrected helps in calculating Calibrated airspeed for any instrumental and positional error. This type of speed is useful at slow speeds. 

Every airplane has a certain speed limit, like any other vehicle. While commercial planes don’t fly to transatlantic destinations in a few hours, most airlines operate at decent speeds. Check the maximum speed limit of popular airlines’ aircraft:

AircraftSpeed Limit
Boeing 747614 mph
Boeing 737588 mph
Airbus A380737 mph

Flying Speed Variation

It is crucial to understand that airplanes don’t always fly at a constant speed. For starters, they must comply with the speed limit when in the air. All jets must lower speed to 250 knots when below 10,000 feet. If the plane is close to busy airports, it should fly less or equal to 200 knots. However, a certain speed is obligatory for a smooth flight operation. The flight sets the most adequate speed setting at take-off, cruising, and landing. 

  • Take-off/ Climbing Speed – When a plane is set to take off from the runway, its speed lies somewhere between 160 and 180 mph (140 to 156 knots). 
  • Cruising Speed -When the plane is not climbing or descending, the cruising speed is between 550 and 600 mph (478 to 521 knots).
  • Landing/ Descent Speed – The speed is highly influenced by the aircraft’s heavy body when it’s finally landing at the final destination.  Thus, the speed ranges from  130 to 160 mph (112 to 156 knots). 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

How fast does a 747 fly?

The climbing speed of the fasted aircraft Boeing 747 is between 160 knots (184 mph). Meanwhile, it cruises at 660 mph (Mach 0.86).

How fast do passenger planes fly mph?

A typical commercial airline plane travels at 400 to 500 knots, resulting in a cruising speed of 460 – 575 mph.

Can a commercial plane fly 700 mph?

Yes. Commercial planes can operate at 700 mph. For instance, China Airlines flew its Boeing 777 at the same speed to cover 7,205 miles between Taipei and Los Angeles. 

What is the average speed of a commercial airplane?

The average speed of a passenger airplane is between 460 and 575 miles per hour (mph) or 400 to 500 knots.

Which jet airliner can fly at 1200 mph?

A fighter jet, like the F-35C,  can reach 1200 mph. However, commercial planes cannot fly over the practical limit of 600 mph. 

How fast is a plane going when it takes off?

A plane flies at the speed of 160 to 180 mph (140 to 156 knots) while taking off from the runway. 

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