Compilation of 15 Speed Records

Compilation of 15 Speed Records

The concept of speed appeals to the competitive nature that is inherent to basic human instinct. Originally, in the days of Darwinian fitness, the faster someone was the less likely they were to be eaten. At the same time they appeared fitter and sexual selection would favor them. These simple rules have created an obsession with speed and strength. The Olympics have been around for almost 3000 years, demonstrating how long humans have been pursuing organized physical competition. With the invention of motor vehicles people around the world have continued the tradition of pursuing speed and compete to be the quickest and the fastest. Here is a list of 15 speed records, 5 are unmotorized and 10 utilize motorized vehicles. I guarantee you will be surprised by at least one of the records on this list because this does really demonstrate the peak of human development, success, ingenuity, and in some cases, insanity.


Speed of the Fastest Swimmer: 5.34 mph (8.6 km/hr)


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On April 26, 2009, French swimmer Frédérick Bousquet set a new world record in the 50 m freestyle with a time of 20.94 seconds at the French Championships in Montpelier, France. Over the course of the race, he swam at an average speed of 5.342 mph (8.6 km/hr) and is the fastest recorded speed of a human swimming. To put in perspective how poorly built humans are for swimming, a sailfish can swim at speeds of up to 68 mph (110 km/h) or about 90 body lengths per second.

You can watch him breaking the world record here.

Source: 50 m World Record, and Sailfish

Fastest Sprinting Speed: 27.278 mph (43.9 km/hr)


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On August 16, 2008, Usain Bolt ran a world record 100 m time at 9.69 seconds. Using 10 m splits, it was determined that in the .82 seconds between 60 m and 70 m, he was running an average speed of 27.278 mph (43.9 km/hr). The previous record for fastest top speed was held by Donovan Bailey who clocked in at 27.067 mph (43.56 km/hr).

You can find a video of the race here.

Sources: Sports Scientists and HyperTextbook .

Fastest Unpaced Biking Speed: 82.33 mph (132.5 km/h)


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When something moves quickly through air it creates air currents the follow it, and the larger the object the greater the current. The world record for paced biking, aka following behind a huge truck in a bike is about 167 mph, but it is not very impressive due to the motorized help the truck gives it. More impressive is the top speed for an unmotorized, unpaced bicycle. On September 18th, 2008, Sam Whittingham managed to achieve a speed of 82.33 mph (132.5 km/h) in Battle Mountain, NV on a Varna Diablo III bike. Quite impressive for a human powered vehicle.

You can find a video of the bike breaking the record here.

Source: Cycling Records

Fastest Skiing Speed: 156.2 mph (251.4 km/h)



In April 2006, in Les Arcs, France, Italian skier Simone Origone set a new world record by achieving a top speed of 156.2 mph (251.4 km/h) in a speed skiing competition. It seems absurd that anyone would be willing to strap on skis and an aerodynamic suit and then go downhill as fast as possible, but you have got to get your thrills somehow.

You can find a video of the record-breaking ski run here.

Source: Speed Skiing.

Fastest Freefall: 614 mph (988.14 km/hr)

Project Excelsior Final

Picture Credit 1, Picture Credit 2

In 1958, Project Excelsior was initiated to design a parachute system that would allow a safe controlled descent after a high-altitude ejection. To test the parachute system, staff at Wright Field built a 200 ft (61 m) high helium balloon with a capacity of nearly 3 million cubic feet (85,000 m³) that could lift an open gondola and test pilot into the stratosphere. Because the gondola was unpressurized, he was required to wear a pressurizing suit that also helped him withstand the harsh temperatures that reached as low as −94 °F (−70 °C). On August 16, 1960, Joseph Kittinger a former Command Pilot and career military officer in the United States Air Force stepped out of Excelsior III at 102,800 feet (31,300 m). He fell for four minutes and 36 seconds, reaching a maximum speed of 614 mph (988.14 km/hr). During the ascent one of his gloves stopped working and his hand swelled to twice its normal size but he did not alert the crew because he feared they would abort the jump. Kittinger set world records for the highest parachute jump, the longest parachute free fall and the fastest free fall.

You can watch a detailed video about Project Excelsior here.
You can find a video of just the jump here.

Source: Project Excelsior


Fastest Production Car: 256.18 mph (412.28 km/h)


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Currently the fastest production car is the SSC Ultimate Aero, which on September 13, 2007, achieved a speed of 256.18 mph (412.28 km/h) in West Richland, WA with a twin-turbo V8 engine. The Aero narrowly beat out the Bugatti Veyron, which was the previous record holder and has a top speed of 253.81 mph (408.47 km/h).

You can watch a video of the SSC Ultimate Aero breaking the record here.

Source: SSC Aero

Water Speed Record: 317 mph (511 km/h)


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On October 8, 1978, Australian motorboat racer Ken Warby set the water speed record in Blowering Dam, Australia. His boat hit top speed at 317.596 mph (511.13 km/h), a record that has stood for over thirty years. Water-speed records are notoriously dangerous, claiming the lives of many record pursuers.

You can watch a video of three attempts at the world record here.

Source: Water Speed Record

Fastest Rail Train: 357 mph (574 km/h)


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The fastest rail train is the French TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) (French for High Speed Train) which reached 357.18 mph (574.8 km/h) in testing on April 3, 2007. It takes 32 km of track to stop the train when it is traveling at its maximum speed, and for this reason it runs commercially at 300-320 km/h (186-200 mph) to lower the required stopping distance to only 8 km.

You can watch a video of the test run that led to the record speed here.

Source: Train

Fastest Motorcycle: 360 mph (580 km/h)


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On September 26, 2008, the Top 1 Oil-Ack Attack Streamliner Motorcycle driven by Rocky Robinson achieved a top speed of 360.913 mph (580.833 km/h) at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, USA. It was first accelerated using a truck, and then the stabilizing wheels were retracted into the extremely aerodynamic body leaving the twin Sazuki engines to accelerate the motorcycle to its record-breaking speed.

You can watch a world record being made here.

Source: Motorcycle Land Speed Record

Land-Speed Record: 763 mph (1,228 km/h)


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On October 15, 1997, UK driver Andy Green set a land-speed record using a Turbofan powered ThrustSSC in Black Rock Desert, USA. It achieved a speed of 763 mph (1,228 km/h) over the distance of 1 mile and broke the sound barrier. Below is a description of how a Turbofan engine works:

“A turbofan is a type of aircraft engine consisting of a ducted fan which is powered by a gas turbine. Part of the airstream from the ducted fan passes through the gas turbine core, providing oxygen to burn fuel to create power. However, most of the air flow bypasses the engine core, and is accelerated by the fan blades in much the same manner as a propeller” (Turbofan).

You can watch the world record being made here.

Source: Land Speed Record

Air Speed Records:

Fastest Manned Airplane: 2,193 mph (3,529 km/hr)


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On July 28, 1976, Captain Eldon W. Joersz and Major George T. Morgan broke the air speed record by flying a SR-71 Blackbird along a strait course at 2,193.167 mph (3,529.56 km/hr). The previous speed record was set by a Lockheed YF12A Interceptor prototype in June 1965 which flew at 2,070.101 mph (3,331.505 km/h). The Blackbird also broke the previous altitude record of 80,257.86 ft (24,462.6 m) held by the Lockheed YF12A by flying at 85,069 feet (25,929.03 m).

You can watch a video of the blackbird here.

Source: WVI

Fastest Speed by Manned Aircraft: 4,519 mph (7,273 km/h)


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A rocket propelled plane is not technically an airplane so for that reason it is in its own category. On October 3, 1967 pilot Pete Knight flew a North American X-15 rocket-powered aircraft 4,519 mph (7,273 km/h) at an altitude of 36.3 miles (58.4 km), thus breaking the record for top speed of a manned aircraft.

You can watch a video of the X-15 here.

Source: X-15

Fastest Unmanned Aircraft: 7,546 mph (12,144 km/hr)

x-43 plane

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x-43On November 16th, 2004 an X-43A Hypersonic aircraft achieved a velocity of 7,546 mph (12,144 km/hr). To do this, a modified Pegasus rocket attached to the X-43A was launched from a Boeing B-52 at an altitude of 13,157 meters (43,166 ft). The aircraft was accelerated by the rocket which then detached allowing the Scramjet to accelerate to the top speed of 7,546 mph. Scramjet stands for Supersonic Combustion Ramjet, and is essentially a ramjet that performs optimally at velocities faster than the speed of sound. Below is a description of how a Ramjet works.

“An object moving at high speed through air generates a high pressure region in front and a low pressure region to the rear. A ramjet uses this high pressure in front of the engine to force air through the tube, where it is heated by combusting some of it with fuel. It is then passed through a nozzle to accelerate it to supersonic speeds. This acceleration gives the ramjet forward thrust” (Ramjet).

You can watch a video of the X-43A here.

Source: NASA X-43

Fastest Spacecrafts:

Fastest Manned Spacecraft: 24,790 mph (39,896 km/h)

apollo 10

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During the return from the moon on May 26, 1969, the Apollo 10 crew achieved the fastest speed of a manned vehicle by traveling at 24,790 mph (39,896 km/h) relative to earth. The crew members were Thomas Stafford, John W. Young and Eugene Cernan, and it was the first space mission to include an all veteran crew.

You can watch a video about Apollo 10 here.

Source: Apollo 10

Fastest Unmanned Spacecraft: 157,078 mph (252,792 km/h)


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The Helios 2 Space Probe was launched by the Federal Republic of Germany and NASA in the mid 1970s using US Air Force launch vehicles. It orbited around the sun and relayed data back to earth. The spacecraft provided important information on solar plasma, the solar wind, cosmic rays, and cosmic dust, and also performed magnetic field and electrical field experiments. During its orbit, the probe reached a speed of 157,078 mph (252,792 km/h), thus making it the fastest spacecraft ever.

Source: Helios Probes and NASA

This article is licensed under the GFDL because it contains some quotations from Wikipedia.

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