Most small planes fly between 120-180 mph. In contrast, private and commercial jets regularly fly 4-5x faster, whereas military jets can even fly 10x as fast.

Small planes fly slower than larger planes, primarily due to their less powerful engines. But, even at their slowest, small planes cruise at speeds much faster than cars. 

How Fast Small Planes Fly

Generally, small planes fly between 124 mph to 400 mph or 200 km/h to 643 km/h.

The exact speed of a small plane depends on its model and type, as well as outside weather conditions.

Here are the cruising speeds of some popular small planes: 

  • Cessna 172: 142 mph 
  • Pilatus PC-12NG: 333 mph 
  • Diamond DA40 NG: 177 mph
  • Beechcraft G36 Bonanza: 202 mph

How Fast Single-Engine Planes Fly

An average single-engine plane will fly at around 140 mph.

Under the best outside conditions, and with no wind resistance, the best single-engine planes will fly up to 250 mph.

The Guinness Book of World Records reports that the fastest single-engine plane in history was the XF-84H Thunderscreech, which had a speed of 520 mph. 

Single engine planes are also classified as small planes, and are also highly affected by wind resistance and turbulence, so they’re slower than other planes.

Here are some of the most popular single-engine planes and their speeds: 

  • Epic E1000GX: 380 mph or 330 knots 
  • Piper M500: 302 mph or 262 knots 
  • Piper M600: 315 mph or 274 knots 
  • Pilatus PC-12 NG: 328 mph or 285 knots 
  • Pilatus PC-12 NGX:  335 mph or 290 knots

How Fast Small Planes Takeoff and Land

The average single-engine small plane has a takeoff and landing speed of 60 knots or 69 mph.

The exact takeoff and landing speed of a plane depends on several factors, ranging from the aircraft’s model and weight to wind and weather conditions.

Takeoff speed also changes depending on the altitude of the airport or air strip that the small plane lands at.

Airports that are positioned at a higher altitude require more runway, and planes to have higher takeoff speeds because of lower oxygen levels.

Speed of Small Planes vs. Large Planes vs. Fighter Jets

Small Planes vs. Private Jets

Private planes regularly fly several times faster than small planes.

Besides being equipped with more powerful engines, private jets cruise at higher altitudes than small planes, so they experience better flying conditions, which lets them fly faster.

Small Planes vs. Commercial Airliners

On average, commercial airliners fly between 400 and 500 knots or 460 to 575 mph at 36,000 feet.

In contrast, the average small plane flies at a quarter of that speed at much lower altitudes.

The very popular Cessna 172, for example, has a maximum altitude of 13,000 ft – 15,000 ft.

Small planes cannot reach the same speeds as commercial planes because of their less powerful engines and the fact that they fly at lower altitudes.

Most commercial planes also land and take off at higher speeds than small planes cruise at.

The average commercial plane takes off at 160 to 180 mph and lands at 150 to 165 mph. 

Small Planes vs Fighter Jets

Military fighter jets are much faster than small planes, being able to fly 10-15 times as fast.

For instance, the Lockheed SR-71 is capable of flying at a staggering 2,200 mph.

Defense analysts believe that the average speed of 4th generation fighter planes is between 1200-1700 mph, which is several times what small planes can achieve.

What’s the Slowest a Plane Can Fly?

The slowest speed a plane can fly is around 31 mph or 50 km/h.

A plane’s slowest speed is known as its ‘stall speed’ since this is the minimum speed needed to keep the plane airborne.

At stall speeds, only enough air passes over the plane’s wings to sustain its altitude.

Flying at such a low speed is considered dangerous since planes could easily be destabilized.

Related: What Causes an Aircraft to Stall?

Small Planes Have Pretty Good Range

Small planes can travel between 500 and 1,500 nautical miles before running out of fuel under optimum conditions.

Small planes travel limited distances because of weaker engines, smaller fuel tanks, and lack of advanced avionics systems.

Flying long distances in small planes is also tiring for pilots due to the discomfort of the small cockpit. So, long flights on small planes are unrealistic and impractical.  

In conclusion, small planes fly at speeds of 120-180 mph. Small planes fly much slower than commercial, private, and military planes since they lack the hardware and technology of bigger planes.

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.