The article was first published on October 11, 2020.
Business jets are the crème of the crop of civilian aviation, providing exclusive speed and luxury for those who can afford it. But just as those flying them, bizjets are not created equal: some of them are faster than others.
There is a lot of competition regarding the speed of private jets, as every minute saved on traveling can mean millions of dollars for high-level executives, officials and celebrities that use this mode of transportation. At least several manufacturers are claiming to produce the fastest business jet, citing different numbers. Aviation enthusiasts compile countless lists, comparing unproven figures and putting their favorite aircraft on top.
Several things have to be understood to make sense of all this mess. Business jets, just as other aircraft, have several “top speeds” depending on the mode of operation.
There is cruise speed – the speed at which the aircraft usually flies to save fuel and reach maximum flight distance. There is high cruise speed – the speed at which the aircraft can fly if there is a need to be faster, but the range is sacrificed this way due to higher fuel consumption. And then there is the maximum speed – the very fastest the aircraft can fly without falling apart or damaging its engines, but this mode of operation is not normal and cannot be sustained over long periods of time.
These three parameters can be very different or overlap, and there is no telling which one of them is more important. Both manufacturers and leasing companies usually list the maximum speed, because it is a higher number, but the cruise speed is what most of their customers will ever experience. On the other hand, for those able to afford it, there is nothing to prevent making test runs and pushing their private aircraft to the limit – just like many would do with their new car.
Also, many companies choose to list their aircraft’s maximum Mach number, meaning the fraction of the speed of sound the jet can achieve. The actual speed, in kilometers or miles per hour, can differ dramatically depending on altitude, weather conditions and so on. For this list, we took the maximal true airspeed of the aircraft, at its cruising altitude, provided by either the manufacturer or the leasing companies. In cases when those numbers are conflicting, we chose to trust the most reported one.
So, what are the ten currently available fastest business jets?
10. Bombardier Challenger 600 series: 890 kmh / 553 mph
(Image: Maartin Visser / Wikipedia)
Bombardier’s family of models 600, 601, 604, 605 and 650 are some of the older aircraft on this list, as 600 first flew in 1978. The 650 is still offered by the company, upgraded to the latest technological standard and boosting some of the lowest operating costs in the class. While the aircraft can be pushed to 890 kilometers per hour, its cruise speed is rather modest 854 kmh.
9. Dassault Falcon 2000: 893 kmh / 554 mph
(Image: Tomás Del Coro / Wikipedia)
French company Dassault currently offers two variants of their Falcon 2000 platform: the “budget” 2000S and the long-range 2000LXS. Both of them are slightly faster than Bombardier Challenger 600, although their cruise speed is marginally lower, at 851 kmh.
8. Cessna Citation Longitude: 895 kmh / 556 mph
The latest addition to Cessna’s Citation business jet family (before the Hemisphere gets completed), Longitude has the high cruising speed of 895 kmh, faster than the maximum speed of many other business jets. It is completely possible than the actual maximum speed of the aircraft is quite a bit higher, but the company chooses not to disclose that.
7. Gulfstream G550: 941 kmh / 584 mph
(Image: Kentaro Iemoto / Wikipedia)
A leap over Cessna’s longitude, G550 jumps into the territory of over 900 kilometers per hour. And it is one of the slowest aircraft in Gulfstream’s expansive lineup!
6. Bombardier Global 5000/6000: 944 kmh / 586 mph
Technically, 5000 and 6000 are two different aircraft belonging to the same Global Express family. But their operational characteristics are very similar, and the top speed is identical: 944 kmh / 586 mph, with high cruise being just slightly slower.
5. Dassault Falcon 7X/8X: 956 kmh / 594 mph
(Image: Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikipedia)
Dassault’s trijets, 7X and its larger brother 8X, are trijets, adding another engine to the basic family, and thus pushing up its maximum speed. They are the first Mach 0.9 aircraft on this list, although their cruise speed is slower than that of Bombardier Global.
4. Bombardier Global 5500/6500: 956 kmh / 594 mph
Another pair of Bombardier’s Global Express variants, sporting upgraded Pearl 15 version of Rolls-Royce BR700 engine, and thus having more umph at their disposal. They have the same maximum speed as Falcon 7X and 8X, but higher cruising speed.
3. Gulfstream G500/G600/G650/G700: 956 kmh / 594 mph
(Image: Papas Dos / Wikipedia)
While they have the same top speed as Falcon 7X/8X and Global 550/650, for the upper part of Gulfstream’s lineup the top speed is not just a number, as it is their high cruising speed as well. Although these aircraft have differing airframes and some of them – different engines, Gulfstream chose to designate their top speed as the same. This might mean a daring pilot can push some of them, for example RR Pearl 700-engined G700, even further.
2. Bombardier Global 7500/8000: 982 kmh / 610 mph
The top of Bombardier’s lineup, Global 7500 and 8000 can reach Mach 0.925, although their cruising speeds are 0.90 (high) and 0.85 (normal). Some companies, leasing this aircraft, claim it to be the fastest business jet in the world, as it has established at least several world records. While undeniably impressive, when it comes to the raw speed, Bombardier has to bow their head to yet another bizjet.
1. Cessna Citation X/X+: 993 kmh / 617 mph
(Global Jet / Wikipedia)
This is not entirely fair, as Citation X and its upgraded variant X+ are no longer produced, unlike all the other aircraft on this list. Nevertheless, it is pretty much unanimously agreed that Citation X is the fastest business jet that ever existed, at least until those supersonic bizjets enter production in the (hopefully) near future. Powered by Rolls-Royce AE 3007, the same engine found on Embraer regional airliners, the X is considerably faster than competitors in both maximum speed and high-cruise speed, the latter of which is actually faster than top speed of any other bizjet save for Bombardier Global 7500 and 8000. Nevertheless, citing low order numbers and a need to minimize customer overlap, Cessna stopped their production in 2018.