International Airspace Speed Limit?


Hi, I just watched a show about private MIG owners. It said (obviously) over US land they are not allowed to break the sound barrier, but it didn’t mention the oceans; over international waters may a civilian pilot go over the speed of sound?

If so, that may sway me from buying a Gulfstream 2 to a MIG… I wish, ill probably get stuck with the Gulfstream.


Yes. The Concorde did supersonic speeds while over the water.


In addition to the Concorde, military aircraft fly faster than Mach 1 over the oceans on training flights. Ocean conservationists have attempted to block this.

I saw a MIG completely dismantled for maintenance in a local shop this weekend. Not sure I’d trade a GS for that ride.


But the question was “may a [private] CIVILIAN exceed M1?”


Maybe I’m missing the obvious? :slight_smile:

Since it’s international waters, what’s to stop anybody from exceeding M1?

No one particular nation’s rules are enforced over INTERnational waters?



Good point, Allen. To me personally, would the question be more of what type of restrictions are there on owning a private/civilian aircraft that has the operational capacity to exceed mach 1?


There are conventions that are agreed to by nations as to how they conduct themselves in international airspace.

For example, flying East at an even altitude in IFR airspace is a no-no where-ever you fly. As well, even though you are flying over the North Atlantic in International airspace, Gander Oceanic still controls spacing and separation until you are in contact with it’s European conterpart.

As for the guy wanting to fly his warbird at mach speeds, he is going to be limited by his proximity to land ( sonic boom ) and the amount of fuel he can carry. Sure you can go out into the middle of the South Atlantic and not be hassled by controlers, but what’s the point.

I think the Concord had to fly through a lot of red tape to fly supersonic across the Atlantic. However, speed was never a major issue, it was sound levels that everyone fought over. Noise was a major restiction for the Concord


I don’t have the regs in front of me as to where the international waters begin, and I certainly don’t know the regs for flying over international waters but if some private owner wanted to go VFR lets say 30 miles off shore, assuming no re-entry issues back to the USA, and stayed below class A airspace to take a joy ride, I wouldn’t think there was nothing to stop him from exceeding M1?

Some things in life, we always ask, what’s the point.

My guess for exceeding M1 would be for the thrill, like a roller coaster ride, what’s the point of doing that other then the thrill.



Can’t see any problem with VFR off coast outside 200 mile limits, as long as said flight didn’t interfer with any other activities ( other VFR flights, drilling, shipping ) .
If the sonic boom, as an example, blew out the windows of a container ship or fishing trawler, then there would be issues of national relations that diplomats would have to resolve. :slight_smile:

My reference to the South Atlantic was made mainly to emphasize that today, you would have to go far to get away from civilization so that you fun didn’t effect others. Another good place to fly mach 1 plus would be the Canadian Arctic.

Come to think of it, this discussion is almost hypethetical. In terms of total civial aviation, the number of privately owned planes that can travel super sonic is very rare ( most private jets and warbirds are sub sonic, F-86 in a dive an exception). Of the the few that do exist, like F-100’s or F-4’s, these are used by companies / contractors who work for the DoD. Plus the cost of maintaining and flying such a machine would limit its truely private ownership to the very, very very wealthy.


Heh, heh, plane be loooooong gone before the boom hit, and I’d betchya the boater would have never had a chance to see the tail number :slight_smile: should such a scenario pan out.





If you aren’t on an IFR flight plan don’t you have to stay within gliding distance of the shore? I have always been under the impression that international waters start 12 miles from the shore line.


Depends on your country. United States and Canada for sure maintain a 200 mile limit for their borders. That is not the case for every country, as many countries have borders that would overlap with a 200 mile limit, or 12 mile limit for that matter. England and France come to mind as just one example. I would have to brush up on my International Law before staying to far into this one.


Nothing much happens inside the plane as you pass through Mach 1 (assuming that you are in a plane rated for that speed) other than the Machmeter going above Mach 1. There is more of a thrill when you kick on the afterburners (or reheats as our English friends call them) in order to get to high speed.


Often times FAA regs match up with ICOA regs which is the ruling authority in international airspace or over international waters, if that’s the case…

FAR 91.817

FAR 91.819

Appendix B to Part 91