How Fast Can Private Jets Fly?

Gulfstream G700 Exterior

One of the easiest ways to compare private jets is by comparing how fast they can fly.

Choosing a faster aircraft will result in you arriving at your destination sooner, albeit only marginally.

However, for many people a faster aircraft is a better aircraft.

Gulfstream G700 Exterior

Maximum Cruise Speed of All Private Jets

As can be seen from the below graph, the maximum cruising speed of private jets varies wildly.

Without a doubt, the fastest private jet is the Cessna Citation X+ with a maximum cruise speed of 527 knots.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is the Cirrus Vision Jet SF50 with a maximum cruise speed of just 311 knots.

In between these two extremes, there are over 100 private jets.

Interestingly, the age of aircraft doesn’t have a significant impact on maximum cruise speed. Much like how the age of aircraft hasn’t had as big an impact on fuel efficiency as you might expect.

That is to say, older aircraft aren’t necessarily slower. There are a variety of other factors at play that limit the speed of an aircraft.

Also, keep in mind that while each and every aircraft is capable of cruising at their listed speed below, most of the time they will be below these speeds.

This is because the faster they fly the more fuel they burn. And, in turn, the more fuel they burn the lower their range. Therefore, in order to achieve the maximum range aircraft will often cruise below their maximum cruise speed.

Large Aircraft Cruise Speed

If you are looking for private jets with the maximum cruise speed then the large (also known as heavy) jets are the place to start.

Despite being bigger and heavier than other kinds of private jets, large jets are able to achieve the highest cruise speed.

And, as mentioned earlier, the Cessna Citation X+ tops the list as the fastest private jet.

After the Cessna Citation X and X+, we then see a series of aircraft with a maximum cruise speed of 516 knots. These aircraft are some of the newest aircraft to market.

Moreover, this is a case where we see a generational difference between aircraft. That is to say that newer aircraft are faster than old ones. The 7 jets that have a maximum cruise speed of 516 knots are all relatively new.

We then see a series of older aircraft that have a maximum cruise speed of 500 knots.

However, in the cases mentioned above, the fastest aircraft have almost always been the flagship aircraft at one point or another. Of course, with the exception of the Gulfstream aircraft. Gulfstream simply produces the most consistently fast jets.

As you move along the graph there is a direct relation between the size of the aircraft and the cruise speed, along with the positioning of the aircraft within the manufacturer’s lineup.

The exception to this rule is the Embraer Lineage 1000 and Embraer Lineage 1000E. However, the reason for this is clear. The Lineage 1000 and 1000E are converted airliners. Therefore, they have not been designed for speed. Moreover, an increased cruise speed is hard to retroactively add to an airliner.

However, the relationship between size and speed is clear. The Gulfstream G280 is the smallest of the Gulfstream aircraft and, unsurprisingly, is the slowest Gulfstream aircraft.

And then right towards the bottom end of the list, there is the Bombardier Challenger 350 with a maximum cruise speed of 448 knots.

Again, the Challenger 350 is the smallest of the large aircraft that Bombardier produces.

Medium Aircraft Cruise Speed

When looking at the maximum cruise speed of midsize private jets we see a similar trend to large jets.

Namely, the larger the aircraft the greater the maximum cruise speed.

Furthermore, we again have Gulfstream aircraft at the top of the list, with the Gulfstream G100 and G150 both having a maximum cruise speed of 470 knots.

These aircraft are fairly modern, with deliveries of the G100 starting in 2001 and deliveries of the G150 starting in 2006.

Towards the slower end of the list, we have some of the older aircraft. Aircraft such as the Hawker 700, IAI Westwind 1 1979, Cessna Citation V 1989, and Gulfstream G200 1999.

For reference deliveries of the Hawker 700 started in 1977. Additionally, deliveries of the IAI Westwind 1 began in 1979, with deliveries of the Citation V starting in 1989. And finally, deliveries of the Gulfstream G200 started in 1999.

The slowest in-production midsize private jet is the Pilatus PC-24 with a maximum cruise speed of 440 knots. However, the purpose of the PC-24 is not the achieve a high top speed. Rather, it is the ability to go anywhere, along with the freedom and flexibility that comes with its impressive versatility.

Light Aircraft Cruise Speed

Unlike the other categories of aircraft, the difference in maximum cruise speed between light jets is far smaller.

Of course, there are some exceptions. For example, the Dassault Falcon 10 has an impressive maximum cruise speed of 494 knots. Speed which beats out all midsize aircraft.

Additionally, there is the Dassault Falcon 100 which tops out at 476 knots.

However, we then start to see the majority of light jets having a maximum cruise speed within around 20 knots of each other.

As you can see from the data below, the majority of light jets have a maximum cruise speed of around 450 knots to 470 knots.

However, after this large grouping of light jets, we then see a significant drop-off of maximum cruise speed.

The drop-off first occurs with the Cessna Citation Encore which has a maximum cruise speed of 430 knots.

Following on from this we see a steady decline ending with the Cessna Citation I, which has a maximum cruise speed of 357 knots.

Of course, given that deliveries of the Cessna Citation I began half a century ago in 1971, it can be forgiven for having a slower maximum cruise speed than aircraft produced today.

Very Light Jets (VLJ) Cruise Speed

And the final category, Very Light Jets.

These are the smallest private jets on the market. They offer great value for money and are perfect for short journeys for small groups.

However, they are also the slowest jets on the market.

At the top of the group, there is the HondaJet HA-420 with a maximum cruise speed of 415 knots.

There is then a stead decline in maximum cruise speed throughout the group, right down to the Cessna Citation Mustang which has a maximum cruise speed of 340 knots.

Of course, as you can see from the data below, the Cessna Citation Mustang is in fact not the slowest VLJ on the market.

Rather the VLJ with the lowest maximum cruise speed is the Cirrus Vision Jet SF50. However, comparing it in this category with the other VLJs doesn’t seem fair given that is running with half the engines.

Given the compact nature of the Vision Jet (and compact price tag), the Cirrus Vision Jet SF50 – with its one jet engine – is capable of reaching a maximum cruise speed of 311 knots.

Variables Affecting Cruise Speed

However, much like when viewing the average fuel burn of private jets, these figures must be taken with a grain of salt. This is because there are a variety of factors that will impact the maximum cruise of the aircraft. And, unfortunately, all factors will decrease the figures stated.

The following factors will all negatively impact the maximum cruise speed of an aircraft:

  • Passengers & Baggage
    • Passengers and baggage result in increased weight. Increased weight results in increased drag. Increased drag results in more thrust required.
  • Weather
    • Wind can be a blessing and curse. When cruising with a tailwind, the maximum cruise speed will be optimum. However, when cruising with a headwind, more thrust is needed to push through. Therefore, the maximum cruise speed will significantly decrease.
    • Of course, wind conditions are hard to predict when you are booking your flight.
  • Desired Range
    • An increase in cruising speed will result in increase fuel being burned. Therefore, if trying to extract the maximum range from the aircraft, a lower cruise speed will need to be selected in order to maximize the range and efficiency of the aircraft.

Summary

For the above information, there are some conclusions that can be drawn out.

Firstly, while we can see that over time private jets have gotten quicker, the progress isn’t as fast or as dramatic as you might first expect. This is best seen with the latest flagship aircraft. Realistically, the maximum cruise speed has only increased by 16 knots compared with the previous generation of flagship aircraft.

The second conclusion that can be drawn from this data is that – generally speaking – the larger the jet, the faster the jet. This is best seen with the difference in maximum cruise speed within the large jet category. The largest of the large jets are much faster than the smallest of the large jets.

This trend can also be seen within categories with roughly a 150 knot difference between the VLJs and the large jets.