Absolute World Records

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

(maximum performance in any class)

Source: National Aeronautic Association

Speed Around the World, Nonstop, Nonrefueled

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

Speed over a Straight Course

Speed over a Closed Circuit


Altitude in Horizontal Flight

Altitude, Aircraft Launched from a Carrier Airplane

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.

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