Flight altitude record

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This listing of flight altitude records are the records set for the highest aeronautical flights conducted in the atmosphere, set since the age of ballooning.

Some, but not all of the records were certified by the non-profit international aviation organization, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). One reason for a lack of 'official' certification was that the flight occurred prior to the creation of the FAI.[1]

For clarity, the "Fixed-wing aircraft" table is sorted by FAI-designated categories as determined by whether the record-creating aircraft left the ground by its own power (category "Altitude"), or whether it was first carried aloft by a carrier-aircraft prior to its record setting event (category "Altitude gain", or formally "Altitude Gain, Aeroplane Launched from a Carrier Aircraft"). Other sub-categories describe the airframe, and more importantly, the powerplant type (since rocket-powered aircraft can have greater altitude abilities than those with air-breathing engines).[1]

An essential requirement for the creation of an "official" altitude record is the employment of FAI-certified observers present during the record-setting flight.[1] Thus several records noted are unofficial due to the lack of such observers.

These aviation-related lists are incomplete; you can help by expanding them with more items referenced to reliable sources.

Balloons[edit]

In 1931, Auguste Piccard and Paul Kipfer (photo) reached a record altitude of 15,781 m. In 1932, Auguste Piccard and Max Cosyns made a second record-breaking ascent to 16,201 m. Auguste Piccard ultimately made a total of twenty-seven balloon flights, setting a final record of 23,000 m.
  • 1783—15 August—24 m (79 ft); Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier of France, made the first ascent in a hot-air balloon.
  • 1783-19 October-81 m (266 ft); Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, in Paris.
  • 1783-19 October-105 m (344 ft); Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier with André Giroud de Villette, in Paris.
  • 1783-21 November-1,000 m (3,300 ft); Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier with Marquis d'Arlandes, in Paris.
  • 1783—1 December 1783—2.7 km (8,900 ft); Jacques Alexandre Charles and his assistant Marie-Noël Robert, both of France, made the first flight in a hydrogen balloon to about 610 m. Charles then ascended alone to the record altitude.
  • 1784—4 km (13,000 ft) Pilâtre de Rozier and the chemist Joseph Proust in a Montgolfier.
  • 1803—18 July 1803—7.28 km (23,900 ft) Étienne-Gaspard Robert and Auguste Lhoëst in a balloon.
  • 1839—7.9 km (26,000 ft) Charles Green and Spencer Rush in a free balloon.
  • 1862—5 September 1862— about 11.887 km (39,000 ft)—Henry Coxwell and James Glaisher in a coal-gas balloon. Glaisher lost consciousness during the ascent due to the low air pressure and cold temperature of −11 °C (12 °F).
  • 1927—4 November 1927—13.222 km (43,380 ft)—Captain Hawthorne C. Gray of the (United States Army Air Corps) in a helium balloon. Gray was killed when his oxygen supply ran out.
  • 1931—27 May 1931—15.787 km (51,790 ft) —Auguste Piccard & Paul Kipfer in a hydrogen balloon.
  • 1932—16.2 km (53,000 ft) —Auguste Piccard and Max Cosyns in a hydrogen balloon.
  • 1933—30 September—18.501 km (60,700 ft) USSR balloon USSR-1.
  • 1933—20 November—18.592 km (61,000 ft) Lt. Comdr. Thomas G. W. Settle (USN) and Maj Chester L. Fordney (USMC) in Century of Progress balloon
  • 1934—30 January—21.946 km (72,000 ft) USSR balloon Osoaviakhim-1. The three crew were killed when the balloon broke up during the descent.
  • 1935—10 November—22.066 km (72,400 ft) Captain O. A. Anderson and Captain A. W. Stevens (United States Army Air Corps) ascended in the Explorer II gondola from the Stratobowl, near Rapid City, South Dakota, for a flight that lasted 8 hours 13 minutes and covered 362 kilometres (225 mi).
  • 1956—8 November—23.165 km (76,000 ft) Malcolm D. Ross and M. L. Lewis (United States Navy) in Office of Naval Research Strato-Lab I, using a pressurized gondola and plastic balloon launching near Rapid City, South Dakota, and landing 282 km (175 mi) away near Kennedy, Nebraska.
  • 1957—2 June—29.4997 km (96,784 ft) Captain Joseph W. Kittinger (United States Air Force) ascended in the Manhigh 1 gondola to a record-breaking altitude.
  • 1957—19 August—31.212 km (102,400 ft) above sea level, Major David Simons (United States Air Force) ascended from the Portsmouth Mine near Crosby, Minnesota in the Manhigh 2 gondola for a 32-hour record-breaking flight. Simons landed at 5:32 PM on 20 August in northeast South Dakota.
  • 1960—16 August— In testing a high altitude parachute system, Joseph Kittinger parachuted from Excelsior III over New Mexico at 102,800 ft (31,300 m). He set world records for: high-altitude jump; free-fall by falling 16 mi (26 km) before opening his parachute; and fastest speed achieved by a human without motorized assistance, 614 mph (988 km/h).[2]
  • 1961—4 May—34.668 km (113,740 ft); Commander Malcolm D. Ross and Lieutenant Commander Victor A. Prather, Jr. (US Navy) in Strato-Lab V, using an unpressurized gondola. After descending, the gondola containing the two balloonists landed in the Gulf of Mexico. Prather slipped off the rescue helicopter's hook into the ocean and drowned.
  • 1966— Amateur parachute jumper Nicholas Piantanida (USA) reached 123,800 feet (37,700 m) with his Strato Jump II balloon but due to being unable to disconnect his oxygen line from the main capsule's feed he was forced to detach the balloon from the capsule, abort the jump and return in the capsule without the balloon. Due to his glove's design, he was also unable to reattach his safety harnessess and endured very great G forces but survived the descent. Piantanida's ascent is not recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale as a balloon altitude world record.
  • 2012—14 October – Felix Baumgartner in Red Bull Stratos set the record for highest manned balloon flight of 38,969 metres (127,851 ft) near Roswell, New Mexico, USA.[citation needed] This has not yet been confirmed by the FAI and is thus not yet an 'official' record (which would require returning in the balloon, not just jumping or returning in the capsule alone, see Nicholas Piantanida).

Hot air balloons[edit]

Year Date Altitude Person Aircraft Notes
imperial metric
2004 December 13, 2004 4.1 mi (22,000 ft) 6.614 km (6,614 m) David Hempleman-Adams Boland Rover A-2 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale record for hot air balloon as of 2007
1783 15 October 1783 0.016 mi (84 ft) 0.026 km (26 m) Pilâtre de Rozier Montgolfier tethered balloon

On November 26, 2005, Vijaypat Singhania set the world altitude record for highest hot air balloon flight, reaching 21,290 m (69,850 ft). He launched from downtown Bombay, India and landed 240 km (150 mi) south in Panchale. The previous record of 19,811 m (64,997 ft) had been set by Per Lindstrand on June 6, 1988 in Plano, Texas.[citation needed]

Unmanned gas balloon[edit]

During 1893 French scientist Jules Richard constructed sounding balloons. These unmanned balloons, carrying light, but very precise instruments, approached an altitude of 50,000 feet (15,240 meters).[3]

The U.S. (and for a while, the world) altitude record for unmanned balloons was 51.8 km (170,000 ft) (according to a 1991 edition of Guinness Book of World Records). The vehicle was a Winzen-Balloon with a volume of 1.35 million cubic metres, which was launched during October 1972 in Chico, California, USA.[citation needed]

During 2002 an ultra-thin-film balloon named BU60-1 made of polyethylene film 3.4 µm thick with a volume of 60,000 m³ was launched from Sanriku Balloon Center at Ofunato City, Iwate in Japan at 6:35 on May 23, 2002. The balloon ascended at a speed of 260 m per minute and successfully reached the altitude of 53.0 km (173,900 ft), breaking the previous world record set during 1972.[4]

Gliders[edit]

The highest altitude obtained in an unpowered aircraft is 15,460 m (50,720 ft) on 30 August 2006 by Steve Fossett (pilot) and Einar Enevoldson (co-pilot) in their high performance research glider, a modified DG-500.[5] This record was set as part of the Perlan Project.[6] The previous record was 49,009 ft (14,938 m) on February 17, 1986 by Robert Harris in lee waves over California City, USA.[5]

Fixed-wing aircraft[edit]

Year Date Altitude Person Aircraft Propulsion Notes
Imperial Metric
1890 October 8 8 in 20 cm Clément Ader Éole propeller First true aeroplane, yet uncontrolled
1901 August 14 50 ft 15 m Gustave Whitehead ( Gustav Albin Weisskopf ) Whitehead No. 21 propeller First[citation needed] claimed powered flight.
1903 December 17 10 ft 3 m Wilbur Wright, Orville Wright Wright Flyer propeller Photographed and witnessed unofficially.
1906 October 23 10 ft 3 m Alberto Santos-Dumont 14-bis propeller First officially witnessed and certified uncontrolled flight.
1906 November 12 13 ft 4 m Alberto Santos-Dumont 14-bis propeller
1908 December 18 360 ft 110 m Wilbur Wright Biplane propeller at Auovors
1909 July 492 ft 150 m Louis Paulhan Farman propeller Douai Air Show
1909 3,018 ft 920 m Louis Paulhan Farman propeller Lyon
1910 January 9 4,164 ft 1,269 m Louis Paulhan Farman propeller Los Angeles air meet[7]
1910 June 17 4,603 ft 1,403 m Walter Brookins Wright biplane propeller [8]
1910 October 30 8,471 ft 2,582 m Ralph Johnstone Wright biplane propeller International Aviation Tournament was at the Belmont Park race track in Elmont, New York[9]
1912 September 11 18,405 ft 5,610 m Roland Garros Blériot monoplane propeller Saint-Brieuc (France) [10]
1915 January 5 11,950 ft 3,640 m Joseph Eugene Carberry Curtiss Model E propeller [11]
1916 November 9 26,083 ft 7,950 m Guido Guidi Caudron G.4 propeller Torino Mirafiori airfield[12]
1919 June 14 31,230 ft 9,520 m Jean Casale Nieuport NiD.29 propeller [13][14]
1920 February 27 33,113 ft 10,093 m Major Rudolf Schroeder LUSAC-11 propeller [15][16]
1921 September 18 34,508 ft 10,518 m Lieutenant John Arthur Macready LUSAC-11 propeller [17]
1923 September 5 35,240 ft 10,740 m Joseph Sadi Lecointe Nieuport NiD.40R propeller [18][19]
1923 October 30 36,565 ft 11,145 m Joseph Sadi Lecointe Nieuport NiD.40R propeller [19][20]
1924 October 21 39,587 ft 12,066 m Jean Callizo Gourdou-Leseurre 40 C.1 propeller [21] Callizo later claimed several higher records which were then stripped from him as he had falsified barograph readings.[22][23]
1930 June 4 43,168 ft 13,158 m Lieutenant Apollo Soucek, USN Wright Apache propeller [24]
1932 September 16 43,976 ft 13,404 m Cyril Uwins Vickers Vespa propeller [25]
1933 September 28 44,819 ft 13,661 m Gustave Lemoine Potez 506 propeller [26]
1934 April 11 47,354 ft 14,433 m Renato Donati Caproni Ca.113 propeller [27][28]
1936 August 14 48,698 ft 14,843 m Georges Détré Potez 506 propeller highest with no pressure suit[29]
1936 September 28 49,967 ft 15,230 m Squadron Leader Francis Ronald Swain Bristol Type 138 propeller [30]
1938 June 30 53,937 ft 16,440 m M. J. Adam Bristol Type 138 propeller [30]
1938 October 22 56,850 ft 17,330 m Lieutenant Colonel Mario Pezzi Caproni Ca.161 manned propeller biplane record to date [31]
1948 March 23 59,430 ft 18,114 m John Cunningham de Havilland Vampire Turbojet Modified Vampire F.1 with extended wingtips and de Havilland Ghost engine.[32][33]
1951 August 15 79,494 ft 24,230 m Bill Bridgeman Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket Payload Deployed Rocket Plane Unofficial record. Powered by the XLR-11 liquid fuel rocket engine (designated as XLR8-RM-5).
1953 May 4 63,668 ft 19,406 m Walter Frame Gibb English Electric Canberra B.2 Turbojet fitted with two Rolls-Royce Olympus engines.[34]
1953 August 21 83,235 ft 25,370 m Lt. Col. Marion Carl Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket Payload Deployed Rocket Plane Unofficial record. Powered by the XLR-11 liquid fuel rocket engine (designated as XLR8-RM-5).
1954 May 28 90,440 ft 27,570 m Arthur W. Murray Bell X-1A Payload Deployed Rocket Plane Unofficial record. Powered by the XLR-11 liquid fuel rocket engine.[35]
1955 August 29 65,876 ft 20,079 m Walter Frame Gibb English Electric Canberra B.2 Turbojet Olympus powered.[36]
1956 September 7 126,283 ft 38,491 m Iven Kincheloe Bell X-2 Payload Deployed Rocket Plane [37]
1957 August 28 70,310 ft 21,430 m Mike Randrup English Electric Canberra B.2 Turbojet/rocket With Scorpion Rocket Motor
1958 April 18 76,939 ft 23,451 m Lieutenant Commander George C. Watkins F11F-1F Tiger Turbojet [38]
1958 May 2 79,452 ft 24,217 m Roger Carpentier SNCASO Trident II Turbojet + rocket
1958 May 7 91,243 ft 27,811 m Major Howard C. Johnson Lockheed F-104 Starfighter Turbojet The F-104 became the first aircraft to simultaneously hold the world speed and altitude records when on 16 May 1958, U.S. Air Force Capt Walter W. Irwin set a world speed record of 1,404.19 mph
1959 September 4 94,658 ft 28,852 m Vladimir Ilyushin Sukhoi Su-9 Turbojet
1959 December 6 98,557 ft 30,040 m Commander Lawrence E. Flint, Jr. McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II Turbojet
1959 December 14 103,389 ft 31,513 m Capt "Joe" B. Jordan Lockheed F-104 Starfighter J79 Turbojet
1961 April 28 113,891 ft 34,714 m Giorgii Mosolov Ye-66A Mig-21 R-11 Turbojet
1962 July 17 59.6 mi 95.9 km Robert Michael White X-15 Payload Deployed Rocket Plane Not a C-1 FAI record
1963 July 19 65.8 mi 105.9 km Joseph Albert Walker X-15 Payload Deployed Rocket Plane Not a C-1 FAI record.
1963 August 22 66.9 mi 107.7 km Joseph Albert Walker X-15 Payload Deployed Rocket Plane Not a C-1 FAI record
1963 November 15 118,860 ft 36,230 m Major Robert W. Smith Lockheed NF-104A Turbojet + rocket Unofficial altitude record for aircraft with self powered take off.
1963 December 6 120,800 ft 36,800 m Major Robert W. Smith Lockheed NF-104A Turbojet + rocket Unofficial altitude record for aircraft with self powered take off.
1973 July 25 118,898 ft 36,240 m A. Fedotov Soviet Ye-266 Jet plane record Under Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) classification the Ye-155 type
1977 August 31 123,520 ft 37,650 m A. Fedotov Soviet Ye-266 Jet plane record Under Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) classification the Ye-155 type
1995 August 4 60,897 ft 18,561 m Grob Strato 2C manned propeller monoplane record to date
2001 August 14 96,863 ft 29,524 m Unmanned NASA Helios HP01 propeller Set altitude records for propeller driven aircraft, solar-electric aircraft, and highest altitude in horizontal flight by a winged aircraft.
2004 October 4 69.6 mi 112.0 km Brian Binnie SpaceShipOne Payload Deployed rocket plane

Piston-driven propeller aeroplane[edit]

The highest altitude obtained by a piston-driven propeller UAV (without payload) is 67,028 feet (20,430 m). It was obtained during 1988–1989 by the Boeing Condor UAV.[39]

The highest altitude obtained in a piston-driven propeller biplane (without a payload) was 17,083 m (56,047 ft) on October 22, 1938 by Mario Pezzi at Montecelio, Italy in a Caproni Ca.161 driven by a Piaggio XI R.C. engine.[40]

The highest altitude obtained in a piston-driven propeller monoplane (without a payload) was 18,552 m (60,866 ft) on August 4, 1995 by the Grob Strato 2C driven by two Teledyne Continental TSIO-550 engines.

Jet aircraft[edit]

The highest current world absolute general aviation altitude record -General Aviation World Records- achieved by a manned air-breathing jet propelled aircraft is 37,650 metres (123,520 ft) set by Alexandr Fedotov, in a Mikoyan Gurevitch E-266M (MiG-25M), on 31 August 1977.

Rocket plane[edit]

The highest altitude obtained by a manned aeroplane (launched from another aircraft) is 111,996 m (367,441 ft) by Brian Binnie in the Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne (powered by a Scaled Composite SD-010 engine with 18,000 pounds (8,200 kg) of thrust) on 4 October 2004 at Mojave, CA. The previous (unofficial) record was 107,960 m (354,199 ft) set by Joseph A. Walker in an X-15 on August 22, 1963.

The highest altitude obtained by a rocket propelled aeroplane (self-launched—i.e. not launched from another aircraft) was 24,217 m (79,452 ft) on May 2, 1958 by Roger Carpentier over Istres, France in a Sud-Ouest Trident II mixed power (turbojet and rocket) aircraft.[citation needed]

Electrically powered aircraft[edit]

The highest altitude obtained by an electrically powered aircraft is 96,863 feet (29,524 m) on August 14, 2001 by the NASA Helios, and is the highest altitude in horizontal flight by a winged aircraft. This is also the altitude record for propeller driven aircraft, FAI class U (Experimental / New Technologies), and FAI class U-1.d (Remotly controlled UAV : Weight 500 kg to less than 2'500 kg).[41]

Rotorcraft[edit]

On June 21, 1972, Jean Boulet of France piloted an Aérospatiale Lama helicopter to an absolute altitude record of 12,442 metres (40,820 ft).[42] At the extreme altitude the engine flamed out and the helicopter had to be (safely) landed via another record breaker — the longest successful autorotation in history.[43] The helicopter had been stripped of all unnecessary equipment prior to the flight to minimize its weight and the pilot was breathing supplemental oxygen.

Paper airplanes[edit]

The highest altitude obtained by a paper plane is currently for the Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) project, which was released at an altitude of 27,307 metres (89,590 ft), from a helium balloon that was launched approximately 80 kilometres (50 mi) west of Madrid, Spain on 28 October 2010, and recorded by The Register's "special projects bureau". The project achieved a Guinness world record recognition.[44][45]

Cannon rounds[edit]

The current world-record for highest cannon projectile flight is held by Project HARP’s 16-inch space gun prototype, which fired a 180 kg Martlet 2 projectile to record height of 180 km (590,550 ft; 110 mi) in Yuma, Arizona, on November 18th, 1966. The projectile’s trajectory briefly sent it into space, making it the first cannon-fired projectile to exit the atmosphere.[46]

The Paris Gun (German: Paris-Geschütz) was a German long-range siege gun used to bombard Paris during World War I. It was in service from March–August 1918. Its 210-pound shells had a range of about 81 miles (130 km) with a maximum altitude of about 25 miles (40 km).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Maksel, Rebecca (2009-05-29). "Who Holds the Altitude Record For an Airplane?: Depends On the Category—And On Who Was Watching". Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution). Retrieved 2012-03-03. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Lighter_than_air/early_scientific_balloons/LTA7.htm
  4. ^ "Research on Balloon to Float over 50km Altitude". Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, JAXA. Retrieved 2011-09-29. 
  5. ^ a b "Fédération Aéronautique Internationale — Gliding World Records". Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  6. ^ DG Flugzeugbau GmbH. "Perlan Project". Retrieved 2 February 2012. 
  7. ^ "1910 Dominguez Meet – Paulhan". 
  8. ^ Washington Post. June 18, 1910. "Indianapolis, Indiana, June 17, 1910. Walter Brookins, in a Wright biplane, broke the world's aeroplane record for altitude today, when he soared to a height of 4,603 feet (1,403 m), according to the measurement of the altimeter. His motor stopped as he was descending, and he made a glide of 2 miles (3.2 km), landing easily in a wheat field." 
  9. ^ "International Aviation Tournament". Newsday. 
  10. ^ Template:Http://www.fai.org/fai-record-file/?recordId=15888
  11. ^ Aerial Age. 1915. "Joseph E. Carberry, who holds the American record for altitude, accompanied by passenger, Capt. B. D. Foulois, Lieut. T. DeWitt Milling, Lieut. Ira A. Rader, Lieut, Carlton G. Chapman ..." 
  12. ^ Evangelisti, Giorgio, Gente dell'Aria vol. 6, Ed. Olimpia, 2000
  13. ^ FAI record file #15455.
  14. ^ Rosenthal, Marchand, Borget, Bénichou. Nieuport 1909-1950, Larivière, 1997, ISBN 2907051113.
  15. ^ Owers 1993, p. 51.
  16. ^ Flight 16 December 1920, p. 1274.
  17. ^ Angelucci and Bowers 1987, p. 195.
  18. ^ FAI record file #8246.
  19. ^ a b Flight 7 February 1924, p. 75.
  20. ^ FAI record file #8223.
  21. ^ "FAI Record ID #8384". Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. April 30, 2012. Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  22. ^ "Airisms from the Air: Some "Record"". Flight. Vol. XIX (No. 976): p. 635. September 8, 1927. 
  23. ^ "Macready May Win Record". Popular Science: p. 54. December 1927. 
  24. ^ "World's Records In Aviation". Flight, 20 March 1931, p. 247.
  25. ^ Andrews and Morgan 1988, pp. 205–206.
  26. ^ "The New Altitude Record". Flight, 19 October 1933. p. 1043.
  27. ^ "The World's Aviation Records". Flight, 16 August 1934, p. 844.
  28. ^ Cooper, Ralph. "Renato Donati 1894–". The Early Birds of Aviation. Retrieved 2 June 2010.
  29. ^ Détré, Georges. "J'ai piloté le Potez 506 à 15.000m." L'album du fanatique de l'aviation, March 1971. p. 27.
  30. ^ a b Lewis 1971, p. 485.
  31. ^ Taylor 1965, p. 346.
  32. ^ Bridgman 1951, p. 6b.
  33. ^ Lewis 1971, pp. 327–328.
  34. ^ Lewis 1971, p. 371.
  35. ^ NASA Bell X-1 Fact Sheet
  36. ^ Lewis 1971, p. 389.
  37. ^ "50th Anniversary of Two Historic X-2 Milestones Celebrated," NASA 2006
  38. ^ The New Navy 1954–1959 PDF
  39. ^ http://www.boeing.com/history/boeing/condor.html
  40. ^ http://www.fai.org/fai-record-file/?recordId=11713
  41. ^ "Aviation and Space World Records". Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  42. ^ http://records.fai.org/rotorcraft/aircraft.asp?id=188
  43. ^ http://books.google.com.au/books?id=CSmVLrllpKUC&pg=PA151&lpg=PA151&dq=Rotor+%26+Wing+International+Jean+Boulet+autorotation&source=bl&ots=uasuGIHjiL&sig=hjs--XtozWD-hr2bpfHUE0fC7nc&hl=en&ei=b_raS6-LIcqOkQXfoNV8&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Rotor%20%26%20Wing%20International%20Jean%20Boulet%20autorotation&f=false
  44. ^ Guinness World Record certificate
  45. ^ Haines, Lester. PARIS soars to Guinness World Record: Highest paper plane launch ever, 17 February 2012.
  46. ^ Graf, Richard K. "A Brief History of the HARP Project". Encyclopedia Astronautica. astronautix.com. Retrieved 2013-08-14.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]