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Josh-D. S. Davis

Xaminmo / Omnimax / Max Omni / Mad Scientist / Midnight Shadow / Radiation Master

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Maximum flight speed of an unlaiden swallow...
Josh 2004 Happy
Max and a friend were discussing this, and his friend responded "12.2fps, of course!" This came to me for translation, because Max immediately thought "Frames Per Second". Doh. We need to get out more.

Anyway, here was my response to Max.


The 12.2fps was a made up number by Nontagonist on answers.com.


The calculated, average flight speed of a European swallow is 36fps (or 11m/s or 24.6 miles per hour).

The estimated maximum flight speed is roughly 48mph.


Recorded speeds during foraging are 30-40km/h (24.8mph).

Recorded speeds during distance travel has been as high as 65km/h (40mph)

There is no recorded factoring of windspeed, which would have a great effect.

Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 9. Lynx Edicions. pp. 602–638 (ref http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swallow)

Beyond that, if a swallow were at high altitude, and folded it's wings, it would have a much higher terminal velocity.

I can't find numbers for swallows; however, some falcons have been recorded at 242mph in a dive.


I would expect a swallow to have a lower terminal velocity based on its higher surface area to mass ratio.

A similarly sized bird, the swift, can dive as fast as 240km/h, or 149mph. A dive is still flight.


Lastly, the requirement is an unlaiden swallow, not an unmodified swallow.

It would be possible to add rockets and stabilizers to a swallow in order to obtain much higher flight speeds.

Further, helmets and other protective gear could be used to prevent lung damage, impact damage, etc.