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As the most popular brand of planes among private pilots, wondering about Cessna airplane capabilities is not uncommon. How high can a Cessna fly?

Maybe you already own a Cessna of your own, you’re considering making the purchase, or you’re just curious about the most popular brand of airplane among private pilots. Whatever the case is, you might be wondering about what a Cessna can really do. This is one of a few articles in our series about Cessna ownership and operating costs. So let’s see how high a Cessna can really fly.

Like other planes, a Cessna flies at its most efficient when operating under its service ceiling. A Cessna can reach heights of 13,000 up to 51,000 feet, depending on the model. The Cessna Citation X is the highest-flying Cessna (51,000 ft), and the wildly popular Cessna 172 can fly at 14,000 ft.

Cessna is one of the most popular airplane brands in the world. They are known for their small, private jets that can fly high and fast while still being affordable. But how high can a Cessna really fly? And how do they compare to other popular brands? In this article, we will explore the service ceilings of different Cessna models and compare them to commercial airplanes like the Boeing 737.

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How High Can Cessna Airplanes Fly?

Cessnas, like all other airplanes, fly high above the ground for many reasons. First and foremost, imagine if airplanes flew just a couple hundred feet off the ground. Heck, even if they were just a couple thousand feet above the above, it would be utter chaos down here. Everyone would be terrified, buildings would be at risk, and air traffic would be entirely out of control.

So for those reasons alone, thankfully airplanes fly much higher than that. The biggest reasons for this are so that they can fly in the ideal layer of the atmosphere depending on which type of plane. For smaller airplanes, like most Cessnas, the troposphere is where they fly. Commercial airplanes and fighter jets, however, typically fly in the next layer known as the stratosphere.

While I won’t get too far into the weeds on that since we cover the topic much more in-depth here, suffice it to know that there are plenty of good reasons for planes to fly as high as they do. But how high do planes fly? For a general answer to that question, check out our full article on the topic. Here, we’re going to really focus on the most popular brand of personal planes, Cessna.

We have a series of articles on the site dealing with owning and flying a Cessna, including one where we discussed how fast Cessnas fly compared to other planes. To follow suit, let’s take a look at the same models of Cessna here and what their service ceiling altitudes are:

As you can see, many of the popular models of Cessna airplanes fly between 14,000 and 16,000 feet. Of note, the Cessna 172 Skyhawk actually has the lowest service ceiling of those listed, right at 14,000 feet. This might be shocking considering its popularity and top speed of 188 mph. It’s also interesting that the Cessna 152 actually has a lower service ceiling than the 150, which it replaced.

The Cessna 182 Skylane and 208 Caravan are not too much further ahead, but as we look at the 206 Stationair, Cessna 340, and the 425 Conquest I, the service ceilings start getting much higher. This largely has to do with the design of these airplanes, especially comparing turboprops vs turbofans vs jet airplanes.

At the bottom of the table, we have the incredible Cessna Citation X, which is my personal favorite private business jet currently in production. Trust me, if I had the extra $23 million sitting around to buy myself a private plane, this is the one I would get. With it’s 51,000-feet service ceiling, the Citation X is the highest flying plane produced by the company.

Not only that, but it’s also the fastest. And no, I don’t just mean the fastest Cessna, I mean the fastest civilian airplane in the entire world with a top speed of over 717 mph. While the Citation X isn’t comparable to the much more basic Cessnas we all know and love, it’s worth noting since it is the one that can fly the highest.

Can Cessnas Fly Higher Than Other Private Airplanes?

Whether you’re in the market for an affordable airplane or you’re just an enthusiast, it’s natural to wonder how a Cessna compares to others. While Cessna might be the most popular plane, there are plenty of other brands we can compare to Cessna to really get a feel for how the brand stacks up against the rest.

Here are the service ceilings of some of Cessna’s biggest rivals:

Without looking at any plane in particular, you can see that the general range of service ceilings among planes is similar to that of Cessna. In this table of seven models, the altitudes range from 14,000 to 51,000 feet. In the table of Cessnas above, the range was exactly the same.

For example, the Diamond DA40, Piper PA-28 Cherokee, and Cessna 172 Skyhawk are often compared to one another. As they’re all among the most popular personal airplanes in the world, it’s not uncommon to put them against each other. When it comes to how high they fly, the Cessna 172 and Diamond DA40 are equal, with the Piper edging them both out with an extra 1,000-feet altitude capability.

Also of note, the Cessna Citation X’s biggest competitor, the Gulfstream G700, has the exact same 51,000-feet service ceiling. These planes are incredibly similar to one another, taking the top two spots in just about every notable comparison among ultra-luxurious business jets.

Do Cessnas Fly As High As Commercial Airplanes?

Lastly, let’s take a quick look at how high commercial airplanes fly compared to Cessnas. For more information, we go into detail about the altitude commercial planes fly at in the same article the following data is pulled from:

As you can see, commercial airplanes typically fly much higher than most Cessna planes do. Sure, there are some exceptions like the Cessna Citation X, but that’s not really the plane most people think of when they’re looking into Cessnas.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s really a good thing that commercial airplanes fly much higher than most Cessnas. If we were out there flying our own airplanes at the same height as all those commercial flights, it could lead to pandemonium!