Planes accelerate between 115 mph and 160 mph (185 km/h – 257 km/h or 100 -140 knots) on the runway.
But, the exact acceleration depends on the plane’s model, outside temperature, and other factors.
Generally speaking, commercial planes require the most acceleration to take-off, while small planes require the least.
Planes have to be able to accelerate and reach high speeds quickly before taking off because acceleration creates the lift they need to get airborne.
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How Fast Planes Accelerate On the Runway
Modern planes require 30-35 seconds of acceleration before lifting off the ground.
The exact speed at which a plane will accelerate during those 30-35 seconds depends on several factors, like the plane’s weight and outside temperature.
Commercial jets accelerate the slowest and military jets the fastest for that reason. For example, the Boeing 747 has a take-off speed of 160 knots or 184 mph or 300 km/h.
In contrast, a fighter jet like the F15 has a take-off speed of 210 knots or 240 mph or 385 km/h.
The average commercial airliner accelerates between 120 and 140 knots for 30 to 35 seconds before lifting off.
The exact acceleration depends on the aircraft, and different aircraft have different accelerations under different conditions.
Factors like the aircraft’s weight, the air-density around the aircraft, and the runway surface all influence the aircraft’s acceleration.
For example, the Airbus A380 accelerates between 150 and 170 knots or 172-195 mph or 276 or 313 km/h before lifting off.
Private planes accelerate faster on runways than commercial planes.
This difference is due to private planes having shorter take-off distances and lower take-off speeds than commercial planes.
The average take-off speed for a private plane is around 110-140 knots or 126-160 mph or 200-260 mph.
An example of a private plane would be the Cessna Citation XLS, which has a take-off speed of 118 knots or 135 mph or 217 km/h.
Smaller planes need less speed for taking off than private planes – only between 50 and 100 knots.
The exact speed depends entirely on the plane’s weight and the aircraft’s performance.
Light planes like the Cessna 150 take off at 54 knots or 100km/h or 62 mph.
Ultralight small planes require even lower take-off speeds and do not require a license to fly.
Fighter jet acceleration speeds depend on the jet’s type.
The average fighter jet takes off with a minimum speed of 120-140 knots or 140-160 mph or 225-260 km/h.
The F/A-18 Super Hornet, for example, though, takes off at 165 knots or 190 mph or 305 km/h.
Some fighter jets need much lower speeds to take off:
Some planes are VTOL, vertical take-off and landing, which means they take off at 0 knots because they fly vertically. Such planes include the F-35.
Other planes are STOL, short take-off and landing, which means they only need speeds close to 17 knots or 20 mph or 32 km/h to take off.
What Happens If a Plane Doesn’t Accelerate Enough At Take-off?
If a plane doesn’t accelerate enough, it won’t take off from the ground.
Planes are only able to fly because of the lift generated from high-speed air flowing across the wings.
If the high-speed air is insufficient, there won’t be enough lift for the plane to take off. The plane would continue moving on the runway until either the pilot stops it or the aircraft collides with an object.
Such an incident happened in 2009 when an Airbus A340 applied inefficient thrust to take-off.
The result was the plane took longer than necessary to take off from the ground.
When the plane eventually did take-off, the pilots were desperately trying to avoid hitting obstacles. The airplane’s tail even dragged on the ground the moment it took off.
Planes are designed to only take off when sufficient lift is applied to the plane. Until that is achieved, it’s not possible for a plane to lift off. So a plane that doesn’t accelerate enough will just never be airborne.
The Fastest a Plane Can Accelerate
The fastest a plane can safely accelerate on runways depends on the plane’s type. The fastest that any plane can accelerate on a runway is the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.
This plane takes off at 182 knots, but it can safely accelerate to even 200 knots or 230 mph or 370 km/h.
Accelerating too fast on runways is also dangerous for planes, as it can break a plane apart.
Airplane landing gears are designed to run under limits. So, accelerating too fast will burst the tires and cause landing gears to break down.
Airplanes are also not designed to take sharp turns on the ground at high speeds. So, a plane that accelerates too quickly will result in the pilot losing control of the aircraft and possibly crashing.
How Fast Can Planes Go From 0-60 mph?
This depends entirely on the plane’s model.
Generally, modern commercial and fighter planes go from 0 to 60 mph in under 6 seconds.
They achieve this because of the massive thrust their engines generate.
Planes Take-off Faster Than They Land
Generally, planes take off faster than they land, but it varies from plane to plane.
Usually, the take-off speed is at least 20 knots faster than the landing speed.
The reason for this difference is that more speed is needed to lift an aircraft off the ground than to land it.
Landing aircraft at high speeds is also dangerous, so pilots land planes slower than they take off.
High-speed landings also require longer runways, so the global aviation industry is also incentivized to reduce landing speed.
In conclusion, a plane’s runway acceleration depends on multiple factors. Generally, planes accelerate around 100-140 knots on the runway.
Planes accelerate on the runway because it’s the only way to generate the lift they need to get off the ground.
Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.
Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.
Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.