How Fast Can Superman Fly?

Why “Faster than a speeding bullet” is hardly good enough.

We all know the lines. “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…”

Yeah, yeah. Personally, I’m not impressed. With all that’s expected of him, I don’t think being faster than a speeding bullet is hardly enough for Superman to do his work competently. Why?

How Fast IS A Speeding Bullet?

According to The World Book Encyclopedia (New York: World Book, 1998), the fastest recorded speed of a bullet is 1500 meters per second (m/s).

Sounds fast? Not if we look at it in layman terms.

Superman is based in the fictional city of Metropolis . While the real Metropolis is in Illinois , Superman’s Metropolis is more synonymous to New York City , so we’ll put Superman’s real life home base in New York .

Now Boston , Massachusetts is 306 km or 306,000 meters away from New York City . If Superman can fly at 1500 m/s, it will take him 204 seconds, or almost three and a half minutes to reach a call for help in Boston . Not bad?

If you were in a bus falling off a cliff, you would have crashed in much less time than three minutes.

Another Problem: The Speed of Sound

We are, of course, assuming that Superman heard your S.O.S. the very second you uttered it. But while the Man of Steel has super-sensitive ears that can detect the faintest sound waves, he still has to wait for the sound waves to arrive.

Sound, unfortunately, is a notoriously slow traveler. It only moves at 340.29 m/s.

That means, from Boston to New York , it will take your cry for help 899 seconds or nearly fifteen minutes just to reach Superman’s ears! Add to that his flying time to get to you, and you have to wait almost twenty minutes to get help!

And that’s just New York to Boston , 306 km away. What if you lived in Chicago , which is nearly four times as far at 1158 km ? Or California at 3961 km ? (In case you’re wondering, it would take your screams from California almost three and a half hours just to reach New York , and Superman would take another 44 minutes to fly to you.)

The Real Superheroes

The point I am making is that while Superman sounds impressive in DC Comics, we’re lucky that we don’t have to rely on him in real life. He’s just too slow.

If I had an emergency, I know who I can call who would give much faster and more competent help: 911.

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26 Responses to “How Fast Can Superman Fly?”
  1. Jimi Boy Says...

    On December 23, 2006 at 10:21 pm

    Maybe Superman’s ears would send out signals at the speed of light, anywhere he wants, instead of waiting for the sound-waves to take too long to reach him.

  2. SuperMan Fan Says...

    On May 23, 2007 at 3:32 am

    First off it FASTER than a speeding bullet not the same speed. And his flying speed is unknown!

  3. sigh Says...

    On June 16, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    THat’s just his old saying, superman can fly near the speed of light

  4. AndyPanda Says...

    On January 11, 2008 at 3:06 am

    This was really entertaining. Witty too!

    I actually made friend of mine angry at me once for making a similar argument. He was a huge Comic Book fanatic!

    I think the other readers above me are taking this a little hard too.

    I have a pending article you would probably like written with a similar tone. If you can check it out sometime. It’s called Reflection of Survival.

  5. furry Says...

    On March 10, 2008 at 10:43 am

    superman SUCKS

  6. Nick Kenney Says...

    On April 28, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Boy Beatrice…you sure took the starch out of that one!
    Welcome back!! (I’m gone a lot so in case you’ve been back for awhile…)

  7. Ruby Hawk Says...

    On April 28, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    Well, now you have me wondering about Superman’s abilities. Maybe 911 is our best bet.

  8. will Says...

    On May 24, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    superman can go faster than the spped of light. his home planet was 168 million light years away and he flew there and back in just five. so he would have to go faster than the speed of light. unless his body can under take the pressures of a black hole and they really are teleportation like devices???? who knows. if everyone tries to over anylize it then u all are just trying to ruin the fun and imagination comics bestow upon us. and who really wants to do that. growing up is not fun….

  9. Gail Nobles Says...

    On May 30, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Interesting writing!

  10. armywriter Says...

    On May 31, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    Awesome. I can’t believe that people are getting bent out of shape about this. Superman is a fictional character. Beatrice’s article was funny and original. Good job.

  11. Jerame Thornton Says...

    On October 24, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    If you say Superman sucks, yous suck!He’s iimpossible to beat .

  12. Spiderman Says...

    On March 11, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Yu leave my mate Superman alone – i tell you one thing- you wouldnt sau it to his face becasue he would kick your big hole alway the way the land of the nerds – which is where you belong

  13. spanky Says...

    On June 1, 2009 at 1:18 am

    this is funny!!!

  14. TheFlash Says...

    On November 13, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    id take the flash over superman anyday

    flash is the fastest being in the universe he can reach anywhere in a matter of seconds

    for a falling bus or anything he can spin superfast and make a tornado that he can control to catch the falling bus and place it gently on the ground or a plane or anything

  15. theflash Says...

    On November 13, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    only reason hes able to go to krypton and back so fast is cuz in space theres no air or wind to slow him down or anything down

    any superhero is able to go as fast as him in space that is able to fly or if u could run then run as fast

    wonderwomen green lantern hawk girl captain atom you name it they could all fly there and back super fast

    give flash sumwhere to run on and he will make it there and back in half a second or less

  16. Brett. Says...

    On December 28, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    yu guys are gay. its a comic, of course its fictional. stop ruining young childrens love for superman.

  17. DasMoscas Says...

    On April 20, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Actually, Superman can fly FASTER than light. Does anyone remember he flying superfast around the earth and going back in time????
    he just did it!!

  18. The Truth Says...

    On May 17, 2010 at 10:36 pm


  19. terrance Says...

    On May 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    sups hearing is not just super sensitive it has a greater distance then ours. that means he hears all that is going on with in his range, in real time. also the term faster then a speeding bullet means he travels faster then a bullet and i’m pretty sure they didn’t only just. what kind of hero would he be if he only moved 1501 fps. supermans speed is only surpassed by the Flash (all of them even bart allen) tho he CAN NOT fly faster then light he comes really close.

  20. Kal-El Says...

    On May 22, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Look guys, Superman can fly faster than the speed of light. He doesn’t do it normally because it’s against some morale law. He did it once in the Superman movie from the 70s to save Lois Lane, so yeah he’s really fast…
    Anyway, Flash only beats him on the ground cause when Flash travels at the speed of light he will dissappear into speed force, where he gets his energy from… So there you have it…
    He’s only faster than a speeding bullet while he’s running, he can fly faster than the speed of light

  21. Anon Says...

    On June 9, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Isn’t Superman’s main area Metropolis? I mean, sure, if the Earth is in danger, he’ll go out and stop it, or if he’s in the neighborhood, he’ll swoop down and give you a hand, but just like any other defense force, he stays mostly in his own city. Complaining he wouldn’t make it to California in time is like saying the NYPD is terrible because it couldn’t make it to a robbery in Connecticut in time.

  22. Anonymous Says...

    On June 10, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Um, this was a bit pointless to post.
    Because first off it says: “FASTER than a speeding bullet, MORE powerful than a locomotive.”

    That means that he’s FASTER than that, not the same speed.
    It’s English, not rocket science.

  23. N/A Says...

    On April 3, 2011 at 2:27 am

    Flash is way faster than superman, and besides superman is not great at, he just has so many “gifted abilities”……every thing is easy for him.

    That is why I like Batman…..He is Human but still is as good as the other super heroes if not better.

  24. John Says...

    On July 8, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Problems with this viewpoint. The “Faster than a speeding bullet” saying is just something from the Golden Age of comics that stuck with Superman. Currently Superman can move many times the speed of light. The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second, and Superman is currently many times faster than this.

    Also as for his super hearing many don’t understand this power. Superman’s super hearing has VAST range. He can hear far distances as if he were there. He doesn’t have to wait for the sound of someone crying for help to reach his ears when his ears/hearing have great range. If Superman is in Metroplis and someone cries for help in California he’d hear it the instant the call came out because his hearing is so vast and acute he can hear it.

    For example if I’m 2 feet from you and I’m talking to you you hear what I’m saying. The farther away I get from you the harder it will be to hear because our ears can only ear so far. Now take Superman’s hearing, as his hearing range is so vast/long distance he could be hundreds/thousands of miles away yet still here you as if you were right next to him. So this opion/article is incorrect.

  25. Josh Says...

    On August 15, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Um, Metropolis was based on Toronto, home city of Joe Shuster, not New York.

  26. Klas Says...

    On July 24, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Interesting… but not accurate when talking with Superman fans, any1 mentioned this guy can fly FTL and sci-fi from the 30th probably wasn’t written with the same scientific research and accuracy of, let’s say Star Trek or anything new post-internet era.

    Still a good point and enjoyable reading.

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