When asking how long would it take to fly around the world, the answer can vary greatly depending on the type of aircraft, the need to refuel, as well as whether we are theoretically speaking or not.
If you use a fast aircraft that doesn’t need to stop or refuel, you could potentially circumnavigate the earth in only 24 hours, but it’s more likely that your aircraft will have to stop and refuel, in which case you could expect it to take closer to 30 hours.
Micheal Dupont and Claude Hetru flew around the world in a Concorde in 31 hours, 27 minutes and 49 seconds in 1995, though if speaking theoretically, a plane capable of hitting Mach 20 could fly around the world in 1 to 2 hours if it didn’t need to stop to refuel.
How Long Would It Take to Fly Around the World?
The time taken to circumnavigate the globe depends on various factors including an aircraft’s type, speed, design, whether it can refuel while flying or has to be grounded, and the weather conditions the aircraft flies under.
On average, we can approximate that it would take a commercial airliner anywhere between 45 and 55 hours to circumnavigate the earth if it flew non-stop.
If a plane flew at Mach 3 without stopping to refuel, it would take 11 hours to circumnavigate the earth.
If a plane flew at Mach 5 without stopping to refuel, it would take 6 to 7 hours to circumnavigate the earth.
If a plane flew at Mach 3 without stopping to refuel, it would take 5 to 6 hours to circumnavigate the earth.
If a plane flew at Mach 20 without stopping to refuel, it would take 1 to 2 hours to circumnavigate the earth.
Theoretically, if a plane flew on Mach 27 without stopping to refuel, it would only take it 1 hour and 10 minutes to circumnavigate the earth. Currently, no plane can travel at Mach 27, so this time is only theoretical.
Flying Around the World in a Passenger Plane vs. Fighter Jet
Military planes can fly faster than passenger ones, so it would take the average military plane much less time to circumnavigate the globe than the average passenger plane.
Let’s take a closer look at some models of each.
If a Boeing 747-8 were to fly continuously, it would take nearly 45 hours to circumnavigate the earth. In 1976, a Boeing 747SP made a round trip from New York to Delhi, and then back to New York in 47 hours. Although the plane did not technically circumnavigate the earth, it still covered the entire distance of the earth’s circumference.
Realistically, if a Boeing 747-8 flew at maximum speed with aerial refueling, it could circumnavigate the earth in 40 hours. If the plane chose to land to refuel, it would cost at least an additional 2 hours, resulting in a total of 45 to 60 hours to fly around the world.
An SR-71 could fly around the world in 11 hours if it flew at its maximum speed without stopping. In actuality, it is impossible for an SR-71 to achieve this, since the plane needs to lower speed while descending to avoid damage.
Also, an SR-71 would have to be refueled 11 times at least to fly around the world, so realistically it would take 25 hours, not 11 as refueling an SR-71 can take a long time.
An F22 could circumnavigate the earth in 17 hours if it flew nonstop at top speed, but an F22 would have to be refueled at least 15 times before this can happen. While capable of refueling in the air, it would take 22 to 25 hours for an F22 to circumnavigate the earth if we include refueling time.
If an Airbus A380 flew continuously at its maximum speed for 38 to 40 hours, it could circumnavigate the globe. In actuality, an A380 would have to refuel at least three times, and this plane would have to be refueled on the ground. Including its long refueling times, an A380 would take 55 to 60 hours to travel around the world.
A Concorde could travel around the world in 18 to 20 hours if it flew at top speed continuously. If this was actually attempted, the Concorde would have to land at least 6 times to refuel, which would increase the time to closer to 25 hours.
Records for Flying Around the World
First Flight Around the World
Numerous people have already set impressive records for flying around the world in different capacities, though the first people to successfully fly around the world without stopping or refueling Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager who took nine days to complete the journey on the Rutan Model 76 Voyager.
Fastest Flight Around the World
- Micheal Dupont and Claude Hetru circumnavigated the earth in a Concorde in 31 hours, 27 minutes and 49 seconds in 1995.
- The world record for circumnavigating the world as a passenger using only scheduled flights was achieved by David Springbett in 1980 when he traveled on a Concorde for 44 hours and 6 minutes.
- Steve Fossett set a new world record in 2005 by making the first solo, nonstop unrefueled flight of circumnavigating the globe in 67 hours in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer.
Youngest Woman to Fly Around the World
The world’s youngest woman to fly solo around the world was 19 year old Zara Rutherford in 2021, who completed a 5 month journey in a microlight aircraft. She flew from an airport in Belgium and after 5 months, she ended her flight by reaching that same airport.
Fastest Flight Around the World Via the North and South Pole
The fastest circumnavigation of earth between the North and South Pole was achieved by a team of international captains from the UK, Denmark, South Africa, and Ukraine at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in the year 2019. This flight was completed in 46 hours, 39 minutes and 38 seconds, and made only three stops for refueling in Chile, Kazakhstan and Mauritius.
In conclusion, flying around the world can be achieved within just 25 hours if you have a fast plane that can fly at top speeds without having to stop or refuel. What’s much more probable, however, is that a plane will need to stop and refuel, which will bump up the total time to closer to 30 hours. Many people in the past have successfully achieved flights that long.