Main Commercial Passenger Aircraft, 1935-2015

AircraftFirst Commercial ServiceSpeed (km/hr)Maximum Range at Full Payload (km)Seating Capacity
Douglas DC-3193534656330
Lockheed L-649 Constellation19435608,20095
Douglas DC-719535555,81052
Boeing 707-10019588976,820110
Boeing 727-10019638705,000134
Boeing 737-20019677803,50097
Boeing 747-10019709079,045385
McDonnell Douglas DC-1019719087,415260
Airbus A30019748473,420269
Boeing 767-20019829545,855216
Boeing 747-400198993913,444416
Boeing 777-200ER1995103013,420305
Airbus A340-500200388615,800313
Airbus A3802007105014,800555
Boeing 787-8201290215,700250
Airbus A350201590215,200280

Source: adapted from T.R. Leinbach and J.T. Bowen (2004) Airspaces: Air Transport, Technology and Society, in D.B. Brunn, S.L. Cutter and J.W. Harrington (eds) Geography and Technology, Dordretch, The Netherlands: Kluwer.

The design and operational efficiency of aircraft have substantially improved. The main contemporary improvement of aircraft does not concern speed, but range and particularly fuel consumption. For aircraft that have been recently designed, this implies the usage of composite materials such as carbon fibers. If each plane was flown an average of 10 hours per day, a Boeing 707 could perform 240% more passenger-kilometers in a year than a Douglas DC-7, a Boeing 747 performs 250% more than a 707, and an Airbus A380 is able to perform 50% more than a first-generation 747. In practice, longer-range aircraft are flown more hours per day than shorter-range aircraft since shorter-range aircraft have to spend more time in ground operations.