Which Aircraft Have The Longest Range?

Aircraft are built to travel vast distances quickly. But just how far can an aircraft fly, and which aircraft can fly the longest? Have a guess and see how right you are.

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Which aircraft has the longest range in the world? Above is a clue. Photo: Getty Images

How will we examine each aircraft?

As to make this a fair comparison, there are a few caveats as to ‘which aircraft can fly the furthest’. The first is that the aircraft must be in use by airlines or be under serious development. We don’t want to include a one-off prototype that can fly around the world on a single tank if you can’t buy a ticket to fly on it. We will be looking at jet propulsion aircraft and not planes that use other forms of movement.

Additionally, we will be looking at an aircraft fully loaded and ranges listed by the manufacturer. An empty aircraft stripped of everything including seats and entertainment can fly a lot further than a full cargo carrier, and thus would not be fair.

Which aircraft has the shortest range?

Unlike our recent article which looked at which aircraft is the shortest, the shortest range argument is a little harder to put to paper. This is because changing technology and more powerful engines have made each generation of aircraft have a better range.

Hence to find the worst performing aircraft you only need to look back to earlier models of the Boeing 737. For example, the first Boeing 737-100 had a range of only 1,540 nautical miles (2,850 km).

Which aircraft has the longest range?

On to the main event, which aircraft has the longest range in the world?

Starting from the beginning, the original long-distance aircraft was the Boeing 747SP with a range of 6,650 nautical miles (12,320 km). It was built specifically for long-range travel such as the 5,320 nautical miles (9,850 kilometers) scheduled nonstop service between New York and Tehran, Iran.

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A Boeing 747-100SP. Notice how short the aircraft is. Photo: Arpingstone via Wikipedia

This would later be beaten by the Boeing 777-200LR (Long Range at 8,555 nautical miles / 15,843 km) and the Airbus A340-500 at a colossal 9,000 nautical miles (17,000 km). These aircraft would hold out the longest range, even beyond the arrival of the Airbus A380 (range 8,000 nautical miles / 14,800 km) and the Boeing 747-8I (7,730 nautical miles / 14,320 km).

Boeing would also build the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that would be used for many long-range routes (such as the popular Perth to London flight) but it would only have a range of 7,635 nautical miles (14,140 km).

To true crown today belongs to the Airbus A350, but not the original version. The original Airbus A350 has an impressive range of 8,700 nautical miles (16,100 km), but for Singapore Airlines, Airbus built the Airbus A350ULR (Ultra Long Range) that can dominate distances with a range of 9,700 nautical miles (18,000 km).

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Singapore’s A350-ULRs have a modified fuel system for a longer range. Photo: Airbus

Today the A350-900ULR is the longest range aircraft in the world, with Boeing’s latest aircraft (the Boeing 777-8) only showcasing a range of 8,730 nautical miles (16,170 km). There is technically a private version of the Boeing 777-8, which offers a range of 11,645 nautical miles (21,570 km) but it has yet to be ordered and built. 

What do you think? Did you guess the right aircraft? Let us know in the comments.

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