Flight altitude record
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.
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).
An essential requirement for the creation of an 'official' altitude record is the employment of FAI-certified observers present during the record-setting flight. Thus several records noted are unofficial due to the lack of such observers.
- 1783—August—24 m (79 ft); Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier of France, made the first ascent in a hot-air balloon.
- 1783—1 December 1783—2.7 km (8,900 ft); Jacques Alexandre Charles and his assistant Marie-Noel 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) Etienne Gaspar Robertson and Lhoest 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 November—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 November 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).
- 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 (37,643 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 128,177 feet (39,068.5m) near Roswell, New Mexico, USA. 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 
|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[update]|
|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.
Unmanned gas balloon 
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).
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.
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 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.
The highest altitude obtained in an unpowered aircraft is 50,671 ft (15,445 m) on 30 August 2006 by Steve Fossett (pilot) and Einar Enevoldson (co-pilot) in their high performance research glider, a modified DG-500, breaking the previous record by 1,662 ft (507 m). This record was set as part of the Perlan Project. The previous record was 49,009 ft (14,938 m) on February 17, 1986 by Robert Harris in lee waves over California City, USA.
Fixed-wing aircraft 
|1890||October 8||8 in||20 cm||Clément Ader||Éole||propeller||First true aeroplane, yet uncontrolled|
|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 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|
|1910||June 17||4,603 ft||1,403 m||Walter Brookins||Wright biplane||propeller|||
|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|
|1915||January 5||11,950 ft||3,640 m||Joseph Eugene Carberry||Curtiss Model E||propeller|||
|1916||November 9||26,083 ft||7,950 m||Guido Guidi||Caudron G.4||propeller||Torino Mirafiori airfield|
|1920||February 27||33,113 ft||10,093 m||Major Rudolf Schroeder||LUSAC-11||propeller|||
|1921||September 18||34,508 ft||10,518 m||Lieutenant John Arthur Macready||LUSAC-11||propeller|||
|1923||September 5||35,250 ft||10,740 m||Joseph Sadi Lecointe||propeller|||
|1923||October 30||36,600 ft||11,200 m||Joseph Sadi Lecointe||propeller|||
|1930||June 4||43,168 ft||13,158 m||Lieutenant Apollo Soucek, USN||Wright Apache||propeller|||
|1932||September 16||43,976 ft||13,404 m||Cyril Uwins||Vickers Vespa||propeller|||
|1933||September 28||44,819 ft||13,661 m||Gustave Lemoine||Potez 50||propeller|||
|1934||April 11||47,354 ft||14,433 m||Renato Donati||Caproni Ca.113||propeller|||
|1936||August 14||48,698 ft||14,843 m||Georges Détré||Potez 506||propeller||highest with no pressure suit|
|1936||September 28||49,967 ft||15,230 m||Squadron Leader Francis Ronald Swain||Bristol Type 138||propeller|||
|1938||June 30||53,937 ft||16,440 m||M. J. Adam||Bristol Type 138||propeller|||
|1938||October 22||56,850 ft||17,330 m||Lieutenant Colonel Mario Pezzi||Caproni Ca.161||manned propeller biplane record to date|||
|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.|
|1953||Dec 12||74,200 ft||22,600 m||Charles Elwood "Chuck" Yeager||Bell X-1A||Payload Deployed Rocket Plane||Powered by the XLR-11 liquid fuel rocket engine.|
|1955||August 29||65,876 ft||20,079 m||Walter Frame Gibb||English Electric Canberra B.2||Turbojet||Olympus powered.|
|1956||September 7||126,283 ft||38,491 m||Iven Kincheloe||Bell X-2||Payload Deployed Rocket Plane|||
|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|||
|1958||May 2||79,452 ft||24,217 m||Roger Carpentier||SNCASO Trident II||Turbojet + rocket|
|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||The F-104 was the first aircraft to simultaneously hold the world speed and altitude records.|
|1961||April 28||113,891 ft||34,714 m||Giorgii Mosolov||Ye-66 Mig-21 | R-11||Turbojet||.|
|1962||July 17||59.6 mi||95.9 km||Robert Michael White||X-15||rocket||Not a C-1 FAI record|
|1963||July 19||65.8 mi||105.9 km||Joseph Albert Walker||X-15||rocket||Not a C-1 FAI record.|
|1963||August 22||66.9 mi||107.7 km||Joseph Albert Walker||X-15||rocket||Not a C-1 FAI record|
|1973||July 25||118,898 ft||36.240 km||A. Fedotov||Soviet Ye-266||Jet plane record||Under Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) classification the Ye-155 type|
|1977||August 31||123,520 ft||37.65 km||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||solar-electric aircraft — record for non-rocket plane|
|2004||October 4||69.6 mi||112.0 km||Brian Binnie||SpaceShipOne||rocket plane|
Piston-driven propeller aeroplane 
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.
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 a Teledyne Continental TSIO-550 engine.
Jet aircraft 
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 meters (123,523 feet) set by Alexandr Fedotov, in a Mikoyan Gurevitch E-266M (MiG-25M), on 31 August 1977.
Rocket plane 
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 lb 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.
On June 21, 1972, Jean Boulet of France piloted an Aérospatiale Lama helicopter to an absolute altitude record of 12,442 meters (40,814 ft). At the extreme altitude the engine flamed out and the helicopter had to be (safely) landed via another record breaker — the longest-ever autorotation in history. 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 
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 meters (89,591 ft), from a helium balloon that was launched approximately 80 km (50 miles) 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.
Cannon rounds 
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 with a maximum altitude of about 25 miles.
See also 
- 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.
- "Research on Balloon to Float over 50km Altitude". Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, JAXA. Retrieved 2011-09-29.
- "Fédération Aéronautique Internationale — Gliding World Records". Retrieved 2009-07-24.
- DG Flugzeugbau GmbH. "Perlan Project". Retrieved 2 February 2012.
- "1910 Dominguez Meet – Paulhan".
- 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."
- "International Aviation Tournament". Newsday.
- 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 ..."
- Evangelisti, Giorgio, Gente dell'Aria vol. 6, Ed. Olimpia, 2000
- Owers 1993, p. 51.
- Flight 16 December 1920, p. 1274.
- Angelucci and Bowers 1987, p. 195.
- Flight 7 February 1924, p. 75.
- "World's Records In Aviation". Flight, 20 March 1931, p. 247.
- Andrews and Morgan 1988, pp. 205–206.
- "The New Altitude Record". Flight, 19 October 1933. p. 1043.
- "The World's Aviation Records". Flight, 16 August 1934, p. 844.
- Cooper, Ralph. "Renato Donati 1894–". The Early Birds of Aviation. Retrieved 2 June 2010.
- Détré, Georges. "J'ai piloté le Potez 506 à 15.000m." L'album du fanatique de l'aviation, March 1971. p. 27.
- Lewis 1971, p. 485.
- Taylor 1965, p. 346.
- Lewis 1971, p. 371.
- NASA Bell X-1 Fact Sheet
- Lewis 1971, p. 389.
- "50th Anniversary of Two Historic X-2 Milestones Celebrated," NASA 2006
- Guinness World Record certificate
- Haines, Lester. PARIS soars to Guinness World Record: Highest paper plane launch ever, 17 February 2012.
- Andrews, C.F. and E.B. Morgan. Vickers Aircraft since 1908. London:Putnam, 1988. ISBN 0-85177-815-1.
- Angelucci, Enzo and Peter M. Bowers. The American Fighter. Sparkford, UK:Haynes Publishing Group, 1987. ISBN 0-85429-635-2.
- "Eighteen Years of World's Records". Flight, 7 February 1924, pp. 73–75.
- Lewis, Peter. British Racing and Record-Breaking Aircraft. London:Putnam, 1971. ISBN 0-370-00067-6.
- Owers, Colin. "Stop-Gap Fighter:The LUSAC Series". Air Enthusiast, Fifty, May to July 1993. Stamford, UK:Key Publishing. ISSN 0143-5450. pp. 49–51.
- Taylor, John W. R. Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1965–66. London:Sampson Low, Marston & Company, 1965.
- "The Royal Aero Club of the U.K.: Official Notices to Members". Flight 16 December 1920.
- Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Official website –the international, non-profit, non-government organization that tracks aircraft world records
- Balloon World Records Fédération Aéronautique Internationale
- Excelsior III Details of Kittingers' Jump from a stratospheric balloon in 1960
- Iowa State University – High Altitude Balloon Experiments in Technology
- Eng, Cassandra (1997). "Altitude of the Highest Manned Balloon Flight". The Physics Factbook.