For most of us, the highest we can get is around 42,000 ft. That’s usually the highest altitude at which commercial planes fly. The cruising altitude of commercial airliners is in the range of 33,000 ft. to 42,000 ft. This is considered as the perfect height in terms of the amount of lift available for planes to fly and the least possible air resistance. At this altitude, planes can achieve their top speed and save fuel as well.
However, if we consider all turbojet flying objects, then the flying altitude reaches much higher. To get a better idea, here’s a look at some planes that have flown at highest altitudes. For reference, the space starts at roughly 62 miles (100 km – 330,000 ft.) above earth’s surface.
McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II – This was developed for United States Navy by McDonnell Aircraft. It is a long range supersonic jet, used primarily as a fighter bomber and interceptor. It was commissioned into service in 1961. In one of the test flights, the aircraft achieved an altitude of 98,557 ft. (30,040 meters).
Lockheed F-104 Starfighter – A supersonic interceptor and bomber aircraft, Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was widely used during the cold war. It was inducted into active service in 1958 and retired in 2004. It has been used by several nations that are part of NATO. In one of the flights, Lockheed F-104 Starfighter achieved an altitude of 103,389 ft. (31,513 meters). This record was made way back in 1959.
Ye-66A Mig-21 – The Ye-66A variant of Mig-21 holds the record of the highest altitude achieved by a Mig-21. One of the greatest achievements of Mig-21 is that it has been used by more than sixty countries. It is still in use in some countries. It was primarily used as a supersonic interceptor and fighter aircraft. In 1961, the Ye-66A variant of Mig-21 achieved the highest altitude ever of 113,891 ft. (34,714 meters).
Lockheed NF-104A – This supersonic aircraft was in service from 1963 to 1971. It was primarily used as a vessel to train astronauts. The aircraft had the capability to reach high altitudes at a very fast rate. This was something similar to what an astronaut experiences when a space rocket lifts off from earth. In one of the flights, the aircraft achieved an altitude of 120,800 ft. (36,800 meters).
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 – A supersonic jet, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 is ranked among the fastest military aircraft in the world. It was designed by Mikhail Gurevich and entered service in 1970. It was primarily meant to be used as a reconnaissance and interceptor aircraft. Its top speed was rated at Mach 2.83. Along with its speed, the aircraft was also capable of reaching high altitudes. During a test, the aircraft reached a height of 123,520 ft. (37,650 meters). This record still exists if we consider only jet powered planes.