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How fast does a plane go at takeoff?

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  • 3 min read

An aircraft’s take-off speed depends on many factors which include its weight, wing shape, total take-off mass, and various other points which are calculated in advance to correctly place the cargo. The heavier an aircraft is, the more runway and fuel it requires for take-off. With companies trying to save up on jet fuel, aircraft engineers on the ground are left to deal with proper cargo adjustment in accordance with the weight of the aircraft to avoid fuel loss.

In this article, we will be discussing how fast an aircraft is able to proceed at the time of take-off according to the weight category.

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Aircraft categories

The fuel, cargo, and passengers make up for the majority of an aircraft’s weight, along with its own weight without any mass also called ZFM or Zero Fuel Mass. The take-off weight is calculated according to a lot of different parameters and thus, this speed varies from aircraft to aircraft. Now, a plane is usually characterised into two categories according to weight:

  • Lighter-than-air aircraft (For example, Free Balloons and Airships)
  • Heavier-than-air aircraft (For example, Cessna, Boeing, Airbus, DA-42)

Again, the weight of the aircraft has a serious role to play as a heavier aircraft creates more wake turbulence behind them which can cause problems during take-off for smaller aircraft.

When pilots interact with ATC, they do so through RT or radio telephonic communications where they mention the aircraft’s weight category as — H (Heavy), M (Medium), and L (Light).

Aircraft can have multiple weight categories depending on their size and the amount of fuel they can carry but according to the wake turbulence category and maximum take-off weight set by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) aircraft can be grouped into:

Aircraft categoryWeightExample
J for Super aircraftOver 560,000 kgsAntonov An-225 can go up to 195 knots with a take-off run distance of 3500 m and Airbus 380-800 has a take-off speed of 270 km/h or 150 to 170 knots
H stands for Heavy aircraftOver 136,000 kgsBoeing’s 747-8F and 747-8 have take-off speeds between 160-175 knots or 296.32-324.1 km/h
M stands for Medium aircraftLess than 136,000 and more than 7,000 kgsDouglas DC-8-51. It also includes the Boeing 757-300 which has a take-off speed of 140 knots or 260 km/h and the Boeing 707-120B with a take-off speed of 150-160 knots
L stands for Light aircraftOver 7000 kgsCessna 172 which weighs 757 kg takes off at 55 knots or 101.86 km/h

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Sania Usmani

Sania Usmani

Always curious, calm, and a little crazy, you can find me daydreaming or studying. An avid reader, traveler, and graduate of Aviation Science, I love gaining new experiences in life and star gazing. You can contact her here: