The 5 Fastest Types of Flying Machines

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In just over a century, humans went from being as flightless as the dodo to racing through the sky at speeds unimaginable to our ancestors. Crafted with a blend of ingenuity and daring, our flying machines have captured the very sky from the birds! (And from the bats, too.) Ever faster fly our fantastic machines, with speed records routinely shattered: whereas even in the middle of the 20th century the speed of sound seemed a potentially insurmountable barrier, today those in the science and aerospace community create crafts capable of staggering velocity. The sky truly is the limit when it comes to our flying machines! Except that it isn’t, because we also have spacecraft. (Please note that yes, certain rockets have flown faster than some of the items on our list, but today we’re talking about piloted aircraft.)

5 The World’s Fastest Human-Powered Flyer

OK, so the fastest flight speed ever recorded by a human-powered plane is pretty slow. Thirty MPH seems almost laughable, but like it or not, that’s the record. It was set in February of 1985 by an aircraft named the Musculair II, a cycle-driven propeller plane with a tiny little cockpit, enormous wings, and little practical value.

4 The World’s Fastest Piston Propeller Plane

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The F8F Bearcat was a WWII-era stallion of a plane that never saw action in the war that inspired its development. The first Bearcats were ready for service only months before the war ended, and none were ever deployed in combat roles during that epic conflict. The plane went on to see service in plural conflicts during the mid-20th century, however, and achieved its most notable feat more than 40 years after its first test flights. In 1986, a modified F8F set the world record for the fastest propeller plane with a speed of over 528 miles per hour.

3 The World’s Fastest Jet

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Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is the year the plane was first flown. This aircraft, which still holds the record for the fastest ever airspeed attained via jet propulsion, took to the skies half a century ago in 1964! The Blackbird’s record-setting flight took place on July 28th, 1976, when one of these remarkable jets reached the speed of 2,193 miles per hour. While other rocket powered craft have cruised even faster, that nearly 40 year old record is likely to stand for decades to come in the world of jet airplanes.

2 The Fastest Aircraft in the World

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Again the most amazing thing about this record is arguably not the speed itself, but rather for how long the speed record has stood. On October 3rd, 1967, a rocket-powered X-15 aircraft piloted by William Knight (perfect surname for a crazy test pilot, right?) reached a speed of more than 4,500 miles per hour. That means in less time than it would take to watch a commercial-free episode of Mad Men, Knight could have flown from NYC to LA… and then some!

1 The Fastest Flying Machine of All

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Perhaps it will come as no surprise that the fastest ever speeds achieved by a craft carrying human beings did most of its flying unencumbered by things like air and, for the most part, our planet’s gravity. The Space Shuttle (or shuttles, or orbiters, etc.) routinely reached speeds of more than 17,500 miles per hour, easily handing them the crown for the Fastest Ever Flying Machines. With that programs recent retirement, though, might a new contender be in the offing?

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