The Shortest Commercial Aircraft

EDIT: A keen-eyed reader noticed a special commercial variant from Russia that was slightly shorter (by 30 cm) than our previous winner. The article has been updated. 

In the previous article, we discussed which commercial aircraft is the longest in the world. But sometimes bigger isn’t always better, and airlines need a small plane for a specific route. Which aircraft is the shortest?

The Shortest Commercial Aircraft
Which aircraft in the world is the shortest? Photo: DLR via Wikimedia

Defining a commercial aircraft

As aircraft come in all shapes and sizes, we might be here all day if it isn’t clear what we mean by a commercial airliner. After all, a one-person glider is technically a commercial aircraft (where you are simultaneously the pilot, passenger and flight attendant).

Thus we will suggest that the shortest commercial aircraft needs to be one that is used by actual revenue-generating airlines that operate scheduled routes (therefore not private charter). We will also break down the type for each manufacturer.

We will also focus on jet aircraft. While you can get smaller turboprop or propeller aircraft (especially if you go far back in time), it isn’t that relevant to a passenger’s experience today.

Shortest long-haul commercial jet aircraft

Beginning with Airbus, we can’t look further than the A318 Baby Bus. At only 103 feet (31.44 m) long, this aircraft seems oddly out of place when it arrives at an airport. Part of the bigger A320 family, the A318 is a twice shrunken design (which you can read in full detail here). 

The Airbus A318 is commonly known as one of the shortest aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

Interestingly the A318 is smaller than the smallest A220-100 aircraft (114 feet 9 in (35.00 m). Hence why it is likely that the A220 will take over the role filled by the A318 in the future. 

Airbus A318 vs. Airbus A220-100. Photo: Simple Flying

When we look at Boeing, its aircraft have been getting progressively larger over the years. The smallest aircraft was the very first Boeing 737-100 at only 94 ft (29 m). This no longer flies, however, and is only visible in a museum. The bigger 737-200, which is 100 ft 2 in (30.53 m) long, is still in operation and is the shortest Boeing aircraft on which you can still fly.

Boeing 737-100
The Boeing 737-100 first flew entered service in 1967 and is the shortest Boeing plane. Photo: Boeing

We can go shorter

While those are the smallest Boeing and Airbus aircraft ever built, if we look at other manufacturers, then we can go much shorter.

In the under thirty meters club, we have the 98 ft 3 in (29.94 m) long Sukhoi Superjet 100. The first commercial jet aircraft, the De Havilland Comet One, had a length of 93 ft (28 m). It wasn’t very successful, but it does technically tick the boxes.

The British Aircraft Corporation built some small aircraft in its time, like the BAC One-Eleven, which is only 93 ft 6 in (28.50 m) long.

Getting smaller, we have the Brazilian Embraer ERJ135 at only 86 ft 5 in (26.33 m) long which is still powered by jet engines.

The Embraer ERJ135. Photo: Chris Lofting via Wikimedia

But the real winner?

The Fairchild Dornier 328-300JET can carry 30 to 33 passengers, max payload 3,266 kg (7,200 lb), to a range of 2,740 km (1,700 miles, 1,480 nautical miles). It has a length of only 69 ft 3 in (21.11 m)

shortest aircraft
The world’s shortest jetliner – the VFW-Fokker 614. Photo: Groningen Airport Eelde Collection via Wikimedia

But even that is not the shortest. Even shorter is the West German VFW-Fokker 614 – at only 20.6 m (67 ft 7 in). It could carry 40–44 passengers in four-abreast seating to a range of 1,195 km (743 mi, 645 nautical miles). Talk about short!

short plane
A side view that shows how small the aircraft is. Photo: Michael F. Mehnert via Wikimedia

But the shortest commercial aircraft ever made is the Yakovlev Yak-40 at only 66 ft 10 in (20.36 m) – one foot shorter than the one above! It can carry 32 passengers to a range of 1,800 km (1,100 mi, 970 nautical miles).

Yak 40
The Yak 40 is 30cm shorter than the next smallest aircraft. Photo: Arpingstone via Wikimedia

What do you think? Have you flown on these aircraft? Let us know in the comments.