When it comes to civilian aviation, business jets are certainly the cream of the crop, providing exclusive speed and luxury for those who can afford it. But just like those who fly them, not all bizjets are created equal. Some are considerably faster than others.
There are copious lists comparing and contrasting private aircraft, and many have attempted to answer one question in particular: which business jet is the fastest? And it comes as no surprise that this question is answered differently each time.
Moreover, most manufacturers lay claim to owning ‘the fastest jet in the world’.
So, why does this happen?
Before diving into our list, let’s answer some of the trickier questions about business jets.
Why is it so difficult to find out which business jet is the fastest in the world?
The answer is simple: business jets can have several ‘top speeds’ depending on the mode of operation. There is no universal top speed for any particular jet, rather there are several.
There is the cruise speed, the speed at which the aircraft usually flies to save fuel and reach maximum flight distance.
There is the 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, which is the fastest the aircraft can fly without undermining its structural integrity or damaging its engines. However, it is not the norm to operate the latter, as it cannot be sustained over long periods of time.
While manufacturers and leasing companies usually list the maximum speed because it is the higher number, customers will only ever experience the cruise speed.
But for those able to afford it, there is nothing preventing them from carrying out test runs and pushing their private aircraft to the limit. After all, most people would do the same with a flashy new car.
In addition, many companies choose to list the aircraft’s maximum Mach number, which means 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, AeroTime took the maximal true airspeed of the aircraft, at its cruising altitude, provided by either the manufacturer or the leasing companies. For cases where these numbers are conflicting, we chose to trust the most commonly reported one.
But that is not all. Speed is not the only thing that matters when it comes to business jets. Private aircraft reach their destination much faster than airliners owing to a multitude of reasons, including altitude.
Why do business jets fly higher?
Higher altitude means less traffic and better flying conditions. Additionally, there is less air resistance, which helps the jet to fly faster and more efficiently.
So, due to flying at higher altitudes, private jets can arrive at their destination faster than airliners, even if the top speed is similar. Flying higher also consumes less fuel, which is always a plus.
But the speed of a business jet is also important. Each minute saved on traveling can equate to millions of dollars for high-level executives, officials and celebrities that use this mode of transportation. And, if they want to squeeze every last bit of performance out of their airplanes, they have to pay an appropriate price. Business jets are incredibly expensive.
Why are business jets so expensive?
Simply put, they are as expensive as any other aircraft. But choosing to purchase an aircraft privately means shouldering the full cost.
Due to research and engineering expenses, airplanes are incredibly costly. To design a simple aircraft that is fast, safe and efficient, a large team of well-trained engineers must work day in and day out for several years, and any mistake could be disastrous. Manufacturing costs are also high owing to the precision and skill required alongside the cost of materials.
Furthermore, maintenance fees add up. Airplanes experience significant wear-and-tear, parts have to be changed regularly, and monitored by qualified personnel.
For many business jets, the need to appear luxurious adds additional expense. Private aircraft owners tend to want the best interiors, created by famous designers and fashioned out of the finest materials. Private jet interiors are often as lavish as the decor at some of the world’s most luxurious hotels. Not surprisingly, this boosts the cost to a whole other level.
So, owning one of the fastest private jets in the world is a costly affair. Even a used bizjet costs millions of dollars.
But how does price correlate with speed? To answer this question (and to conclude this lengthy intro), we’ll need to jump straight to our list.
Top 10 fastest business jets in the world (as of 2021)
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.
There are a lot of used Challenger 600s around, and they are rather cheap in comparison with other business jets. So, a lot of governments and militaries use them for various kinds of transport duties. Therefore, if you see a 600 flying, there is a high chance it is not exactly private, but is using all of its speed to carry politicians or generals around.
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.
Fun fact: According to Dassault, Falcons are built “in the same factory, using the same software and by the same people” as their highly successful Rafale fighter jets. So, while very different on the outside, the Falcon 2000 and the top military jet of the French Air Force have more in common than you might think.
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.
But the strangest thing is, that by becoming the staple of Cessna’s bizjet lineup, the Longitude ended the production of one very important aircraft. Read on to discover what that aircraft was.
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!
The 900 kmh is actually quite important, as it is very close to the cruise speeds of many large airliners – such as the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 (both cruise at 903 km/h / 561 mph). Yet – just as we explained – speed is not everything, and even the slower business jets can get to their destinations faster thanks to flying above the traffic.
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.
They are bigger, faster and a lot more expensive than Bombardier’s Challenger 600 series. The Global 5000 or 6000 (it is hard to tell which one) is also the only business jet to have a starring role in the animated children’s film ‘Planes: Fire & Rescue’ (2014).
5. Dassault Falcon 7X/8X: 956 kmh / 594 mph
(Image: Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikipedia)
Dassault 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.
Oh, and although it may look like this is Dassault’s fastest business jet, this may not be the case for long: the upcoming Falcon 10X is set to have a slightly higher cruising speed, so… Fingers crossed?
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.
The difference is just 12 km/h though, only adding a few miles per every hour traveled. But more powerful engines are important for other reasons as well: they mean faster acceleration and faster climb rate, so, the Global 5500 and 6500 can reach their destinations quite a bit faster than aircraft with less powerful engines.
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.
Gulfstream’s association with speed is something that goes a bit farther than aviation geek circles. In 2007 blockbuster ‘Ocean’s 13’, multiple characters use nothing else but various Gulfstream bizjets to get around – adding a nice spot of advertising for the brand.
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 that it is the fastest business jet in the world, as it has established several world records. While undeniably impressive, when it comes to raw speed, Bombardier has to bow before 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.
Despite that, there are hundreds of Citation X bizjets still flying today. So, if you have money to spend, you still can rent or even buy the fastest business jet in the world – and find out what having the speediest bird around really means.