It wasn’t long after the Wright Brothers that pilots and aircraft manufacturers began chasing speed records. 

After all, the need for speed is real, a distinguishing human characteristic that dates back to the days of Roman chariot races, if not even further. 

In the aviation world, the absolute fastest planes are unattainable to the average pilot. Chances are, none of you reading this have ever flown a Lockheed SR71 Blackbird at 1,905 knots. 

Nonetheless, no single plane owns speed. Speed is not absolute. It’s a relative phenomenon that exists across all different types of planes, not just among elite military aircraft. 

So, what are the fastest planes that a typical civilian pilot could own? 

Or, more accurately, what are the top 10 fastest single-engine piston planes in production today. 

Buckle your seatbelts, this imaginary hot lap through the world of single-engine speed begins now. 

Table of Contents

1. Mooney Acclaim


 

Mooney Acclaim

    • Top speed: 242 knots
    • Climb rate: 1,375 fpm
    • Max altitude: 25,000 feet
    • Seats: 4
    • Horsepower: 280
    • Empty weight: 2,319 pounds
    • Cost new: $769,000

Was there any question about which plane would appear in the top spot? The Mooney Acclaim holds more than 120 world speed and altitude records. 

The Acclaim is one of two existing models in Mooney’s long-running M20 family of aircraft. The M20 series debuted in 1955 with the M20A and has been putting smiles on pilot’s faces ever since. The manufacturer has sold more than 11,000 units, leaving little doubt that Mooney knows how to build speed without sacrificing dependability. 

The most recent evolution of the Acclaim is the M20V or Acclaim Ultra. It debuted in 2016. In aviation, there are no shortcuts for speed. It’s aerodynamics and horsepower, and the Acclaim excels in both categories with a sleek and sexy design and a turbocharged Continental TSIO-550-G engine cranking out 280 ponies. 

The Mooney Ovation - a sister model in the M20 lineup - appears later in the list. 

2. Cirrus SR22T


Cirrus SR22T

    • Top speed: 213 knots
    • Climb rate: 1,203 fpm
    • Max altitude: 25,000 feet
    • Seats: 4
    • Horsepower: 315
    • Empty weight: 2,354 pounds
    • Cost new: $754,900

Do we even have to tell you what the “T” in SR22T stands for? If you guessed turbocharged, you’re correct. The SR22T is one of four turbocharged planes on this list, which both adds a bit of power and makes the plane more capable at higher altitudes. 

The base-model SR22 has been around since 2001 (and appears later in this list). Cirrus unveiled the T model in 2010. It comes with a Continental TSI0 550 K, a powerful 6-cylinder engine. 

3. Piper M350


Piper M350

    • Top speed: 213 knots
    • Max altitude: 25,000 feet
    • Seats: 6
    • Horsepower: 350
    • Empty weight: 3,050 pounds
    • Cost new: $1.2 million

We know what you are going to say. The Piper M350 is a business class aircraft complete with a pressurized cabin, and with a price tag of $1.2 million, is out of the budget range of your typical private pilot. 

You’re right. But it’s also a single-engine piston plane. So, even if it’s a bit of an outlier, it meets the parameters of this list. The turbo-charged M350 is all about luxury and sophistication, with comfortable interiors that meet the expectations of even the most spoiled executives.  

4. Mooney Ovation Ultra


Mooney Ovation Ultra

    • Top speed: 197 knots
    • Climb rate: 1,300 fpm
    • Max altitude: 20,000 feet
    • Seats: 4
    • Horsepower: 315
    • Empty weight: 
    • Cost new: $689,000

The Ovation Ultra is the fastest normally aspirated single-engine piston plane on the market right now. Mooney’s Ovation lineup has been around for more than 20 years, and the Ultra, or M20U, is the most recent evolution, released in 2016. 

It retains the classic streamlined Mooney shape and signature tail profile with its vertical leading edge. Updates include doors on each side of the fuselage, improved visibility, and composite materials to reduce weight. Sure, the Ovation Ultra isn’t as fast as the Acclaim Ultra, but 197 knots is nothing to laugh at.  

5. Cirrus SR22


Cirrus SR22

    • Top Speed: 183 knots
    • Climb rate: 1,270 fpm
    • Max altitude: 17,500 feet
    • Seats: 4
    • Horsepower: 310
    • Empty weight: 
    • Cost new: $654,900

No. You’re not having deja vu. The Cirrus SR22 makes the list again. But this is the non-turbocharged, normally aspirated version that still cranks out 183 knots. 

The Duluth-based Cirrus has sold about 6,000 SR22s, and the aircraft has been the top selling general aviation airplane every since 2003. All those pilots can’t be wrong. 

The Cirrus SR Series is unique in several ways. It uses a side stick as opposed to a traditional yoke, and the plane comes with its own parachute. As of February 2020, the Cirrus Airplane Parachute System had been deployed 95 times and saved 192 passengers. 

Fast, innovative and safe. That’s a winning combination.  

6. Beechcraft Bonanza G36


Beechcraft Bonanza G36

    • Top Speed: 176 knots
    • Climb rate:  1,230 fpm
    • Max altitude: 18,500 feet
    • Seats: 6
    • Horsepower: 300
    • Empty weight: 2,590 pounds
    • Cost new: $991,390

The iconic Model 36 Bonanza dates to 1968, and the G36 variant debuted in 2006. One of only three six-seaters to make the list, the Bonanza is renowned for its big doors, club seating and retractable gear. Beechcraft has sold more than 4,000 Model 36s, and while they are known mostly for comfort and cargo, they’re no slouch at 176 knots either, powered by a 300-horse Continental IO-550-B.  

7. Cessna Turbo Stationair HD


Cessna Turbo Stationair HD

    • Top Speed: 161 knots
    • Climb rate:  960 fpm
    • Max altitude: 26,000 feet
    • Seats: 6
    • Horsepower: 310
    • Empty weight: 2,365 pounds
    • Cost new: $714,000

The Cessna lineup of piston planes is about utility and stability. Speed is more of an afterthought. Nonetheless, the Turbo Stationair HD cruises along at a respectable 161 knots. That type of speed won’t peel the paint from the fuselage, but it’s not bad either. Besides, if you wanted speed, you’d buy a Mooney. 

The Stationair is one of only two high-wing planes to make the list. Cessna markets the six-seater as a workhorse and a heavy hauler. It boasts a useful load of almost 1,600 pounds. The Stationair family has been around since 1962 and is a popular choice for bush planes.  

8. Cirrus SR20


Cirrus SR20

    • Top Speed: 155 knots
    • Climb rate:  781 fpm
    • Max altitude: 17,500 feet
    • Seats: 4
    • Horsepower: 215
    • Empty weight: 2,122 pounds
    • Cost new: $474,900

The Cirrus SR20 cruises comfortably at 155 knots. Sure, in the world of aviation, this is not exactly blazing speed. Heck, even by Cirrus standards this is relatively modest. But keep in mind, the aviation industry is small. There aren’t dozens of single-engine airplanes to choose from and a dealership in every suburb. There’s not a lot of competition. So, congratulations, Cirrus SR20 you made the cut. 

Then again, you must remember. One-hundred-fifty-five knots is 178 miles per hour. You will get nowhere that fast in a car, no matter what you drive.  

9. Diamond DA40


Diamond DA40

    • Top Speed: 154 knots
    • Climb rate:  690 fpm
    • Max altitude: 16,400 feet
    • Seats: 4
    • Horsepower: 180
    • Empty weight: 1,984 pounds
    • Cost new: $430,000

The Diamond DA40 has an impressive safety record, making it a top-notch choice for civilian and military flight schools. Diamond is based in Austria, but also manufactures planes in Canada for the North American market. You can tell a DA40 by its diminutive size and T-Tail. It also has a unique all-composite airframe. 

Powered by a Lycoming IO-360 four-cylinder, the DA40 cruises at 154 knots. The manufacturer calls it the perfect first airplane. 

10. Cessna Skylane


Cessna Skylane

    • Top Speed: 145 knots
    • Climb rate:  924 fpm
    • Max altitude: 18,100 feet
    • Seats: 4
    • Horsepower: 230
    • Empty weight: 2,000 pounds
    • Cost new: $515,000

At 145 knots, the Cessna Skylane will get you to your destination fast enough. The four-seater has been in production since 1956, with more than 23,000 manufactured. 

While the plane has evolved over the years, the basic design has remained relatively unchanged. Simply put, Cessna nailed it from the get go —a big, stable four-seater that’s comfortable, capable and relatively easy to work on. 

And an honorable mention goes to...

    • Cessna TTx
    • Top Speed: 235 knots
    • Climb rate:  1,400 fpm
    • Max altitude: 25,000 feet
    • Seats: 4
    • Horsepower: 310
    • Empty weight: 2,530 pounds
    • Cost used: About 540,000

The Cessna TTX is an absolute hot-rod airplane. So, why doesn’t it make the list? Because it’s not in production anymore. 

It didn’t exactly fit with the Cessna brand to begin with. The company bought the design from Columbia Aircraft in 2007 and sold it under several names, including the Columbia 400 and Corvalis TT. 

It was an attempt to stake a claim in the performance world and try to keep Cirrus from eating Cessna’s lunch. The high-performance, turbo-charged single lasted about 10 years before Cessna discontinued it in 2018 due to dismal sales. 

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14 comments

Pedro Sanchez, Professional Mexican

Pedro Sanchez, Professional Mexican

The Neal Brothers made a Prop back in May-June of 2022. Darn thing made a top speed run of 402 mph, then 404 mph. I never understood why them boys didn’t sell a million of them planes.

David

David

1. note: P.S. The Glass air #number 3: has cruising Speed of (272 Knots Or 312-8 =313 Miles Per hour. The Top speed is 291 knots or 334-65 =335 miles per hour too!

Montjoy

Montjoy

What about the Air Tractor?? 221 mph top speed. 1600 hp. 16,000 payload. SOCOM is buying 50 up-armored and armed units for overwatch purposes.

David

David

1. The Glasair -3 piston Engine Plane : The top speed is in knots is 261 knots or 300 miles per hour too.

Coinneach

Coinneach

All y’all whingeing about “Y U DIDN’T LIST THIS OLD AIRPLANE” missed the first paragraph of TFA: aircraft that are currently in production. Reading comprehension, guys, it’s a thing.

Dave Tener

Dave Tener

Left out was several very popular experimental class aircraft. Notably the Lancair IV-P with a normal cruise of 250knots and a firewalled over 270knots. Let’s not even discuss the 310knots PT-6 version.

Ceri Thomas

Ceri Thomas

None of these are fast single engine propeller aircraft. Anything below 217knots (250mph) aren’t fast but are just faster than average aircraft. Now how about some far closer to 260knots (300mpg) realm of speed. Like Socata TBM 900, Pilatus PC-12NGX, Beechcraft Denali, Epic E1000 and Piper Meridian.

David

David

You left out the fastest of the Bonanza’s, the old Vee-tails, 200MPH cruise at 75%

David

David

1. Cessna model 350: Top Speed is 191 knots is maxim Speed too!

Gabriel R Palacio

Gabriel R Palacio

You did not include the Cessna 400 237 Knots, why?

DavidP.Curcione

DavidP.Curcione

1.The Cessna 400 is the number ##2 PLANE IS A FOUR BLADE PROP THE TOP SPEED IS ABOUT 235 KNOTS AT MAXIUM SPEED TOO. IT RIGHT ABOVE Cessna 350 too.zit one level up too.

David

David

1. The Cessna 400. Is 3blade Air Plane is the 2and fastest fix Gear Air Craft top speed in knots is 235 knots too.is the number 2 Plane in line too.

David

David

1. The TTx number #3 is the Cessna 350 Piston Air Craft is third Fastest Air craft ! The Top Speed is 220 Knots at top Speed Too.

David  P Curcione

David P Curcione

1. We are losing a lot of smaller private:smaller Air Craft too! The smaller Air Craft megs are going out of Business too.There less Air Craft Megs are smaller co ,Corp I.N.C Co"s too. going out of Business too.Do you Agree!!! Sir? Or Mam? What does public say about this ? We like to Know your option !!!

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