Absolute World Records

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

(maximum performance in any class)

Source: National Aeronautic Association

These official absolute world records are the supreme achievements of all the hundreds of records open to flying machines. They are the most outstanding of all the major types, and thus warrant the highest respect.

All types of airplanes are eligible for these few very special records. Airplanes may be powered by piston, turboprop, turbojet, rocket engines or a combination. They may be landplanes, seaplanes or amphibians; they may be lightplanes, business planes, military or commercial airplanes.

Over the years, many different categories of aircraft have held these records. In the past, the cost of developing high-performance aircraft has been so great that only airplanes created for military purposes have held these records. There have been two exceptions to this situation.

Most recently and most dramatically, the Rutan-designed Voyager shattered the theory that only a complicated military behemoth could hold an absolute world record. The Voyager team and its nonstop, non-refueled flight around the world proved that the dreams of dedicated individuals, combined with creative engineering, new technology, and hard work, could conquer the world.

The other exception was the X-15 rocket-powered research airplane. Holder of one record, it was used for both civilian and military research during its highly productive lifetime.

Speed Around the World, Nonstop, Nonrefueled

Speed (mph) Date Plane Pilots Place
115.65 Dec. 14–23, 1986 Voyager Dick Rutan & Jeana Yeager (U.S.) Edwards AFB, Calif.—Edwards AFB, Calif.

Distance, Great Circle Without Landing, also Distance, Closed Circuit Without Landing

Distance (mi) Date PlanePilots Place
24,986.727 Dec. 14–23, 1986 VoyagerDick Rutan & Jeana Yeager (U.S.) Edwards AFB, Calif.—Edwards AFB, Calif.

Speed over a Straight Course

Speed (mph) Date Plane typePilot Place
2,193.16 July 28, 1976 Lockheed SR-71A Capt. Eldon W. Joersz (USAF) Beale AFB, Calif.

Speed over a Closed Circuit

Speed (mph) Date Plane typePilot Place
2,092.294 July 27, 1976 Lockheed SR-71A Maj. Adolphus H. Bledsoe, Jr. (USAF) Beale AFB, Calif.


Height (ft) Date Plane typePilot Place
123,523.58 Aug. 31, 1977 MIG-25, E-266M Alexander Fedotov (USSR) USSR

Altitude in Horizontal Flight

Height (ft) Date  Pilot Place
85,068.997 July 28, 1976  Capt. Robert C. Helt (USAF) Beale AFB, Calif.

Altitude, Aircraft Launched from a Carrier Airplane

Height (ft) Date Plane typePilot Place
314,750.00 July 17, 1962 N. American X-15-1 Maj. Robert White (USAF) Edwards AFB, Calif.
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