You had to ask didn't you? 24 mph The math follows although I do not.
Airspeed can also be predicted using a published formula. By inverting this midpoint Strouhal ratio of 0.3 (fA/U ≈ 0.3), Graham K. Taylor et al. show that as a rule of thumb, the speed of a flying animal is roughly 3 times frequency times amplitude (U ≈ 3fA).5
We now need only plug in the numbers:
U ≈ 3fA
f ≈ 15 (beats per second)
A ≈ 0.22 (meters per beat)
U ≈ 3*15*0.22 ≈ 9.9
... to estimate that the airspeed velocity of an unladen European Swallow is 10 meters per second.
Oh, yeah, I agree with that
With some further study, it became clear that these estimates are accurate, though perhaps coincidental.
An actual study of two European Swallows flying in a low-turbulence wind tunnel in Lund, Sweden, shows that swallows flap their wings much slower than my estimate, at only 7–9 beats per second:
“Compared with other species of similar size, the swallow has quite low wingbeat frequency and relatively long wings.” 7
The maximum speed the birds could maintain was 13–14 meters per second, and although the Lund study does not discuss cruising flight in particular, the most efficient flapping (7 beats per second) occurred at an airspeed in the range of 8–11 meters per second, with an amplitude of 90–100° (17–19 cm).
And there was much rejoicing
Averaging the above numbers and plugging them in to the Strouhal equation for cruising flight (fA/U = 7 beats per second * 0.18 meters per beat / 9.5 meters per second) yields a Strouhal number of roughly 0.13:
... indicating a surprisingly efficient flight pattern falling well below the expected range of 0.2–0.4.
Although a definitive answer would of course require further measurements, published species-wide averages of wing length and body mass, initial Strouhal estimates based on those averages and cross-species comparisons, the Lund wind tunnel study of birds flying at a range of speeds, and revised Strouhal numbers based on that study all lead me to estimate that the average cruising airspeed velocity of an unladen European Swallow is roughly 11 meters per second, or 24 miles an hour.