How Do Turboprops Get Delivered To Far Away Customers?

When it comes to the delivery of a new aircraft, large, widebody jets usually have no issue getting from the factory to the customer airline anywhere in the world. But what about delivering regional jets and turboprop aircraft to far-away customers? How does that work? Let’s find out…

Manufactured in Canada, CemAir’s DHC Dash 8s had to fly to the airline’s hub in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: CemAir

There are airlines all around the world that have turboprop aircraft in their fleets. These aircraft can only fly regional services, usually connecting smaller communities – either to each other or to larger urban centers.

However, there are really only a handful of commercial turboprop aircraft being made around the world, for example, the Dash 8, and the ATR 42 and 72. The Dash 8 is manufactured in Canada while ATR planes are assembled in France.

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With a range of only 825 nautical miles, an ATR 72-600 would struggle to get from its factory in Toulouse, France, to a customer in Delhi, India, for example. Therefore, some expert planning is required to get from point A to point B.

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Minimizing weight

Minimizing weight is the first step to increasing the range of the aircraft. There are several ways to do this.

Firstly, when aircraft like these are delivered, there are no passengers on board. The absence of 60 to 70 passengers – as well as their baggage – can make a huge difference to the range of the plane. Additionally, as the seats themselves can be weighty additions, they are often shipped to the destination separately rather than installed at the factory.

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Therefore, without seats, passengers, or passenger baggage, the range of the turboprop is increased, often by a couple of hundred nautical miles or so.

Air India ATR
Air India’s ATR72s would have to go from France to India. Photo: Sebastien Mortier via Wikimedia Commons

Extra fuel

It is also reported that extra fuel tanks can be installed to further increase the range of the plane. According to the Robb Report, depending on the size of the aircraft, it can range from a custom-made metal tank to a simple bladder made of rubber, placed on an empty seat.

With no passengers and potentially no seats onboard, there is certainly the potential to have fuel tanks installed in the cabin or in the aircraft’s cargo hold.

Ethiopian Q400
The Dash 8-Q400 is part of the Ethiopian Airlines fleet. Photo: Ethiopian

Hop, hop, hop

The final strategy for getting a short-distance aircraft through a long-distance journey is by making multiple stops along the way. For example, a flight over the Atlantic Ocean may include stops in Canada, Greenland, and Iceland along the route. For transpacific journies, fuel stops can be made in Alaska and Russia.

Even with suitable airports along the way, some routes require extra careful calculations due to the distance to the next suitable airport. Winds and weather must be taken into account and the flight can only be taken when these conditions are favorable.

Conclusion

Several websites mention the need to prepare for the worst – especially when flying over oceans. This means including additional survival gear and life rafts as part of the journey. Another source even says: “[I packed] a number of red shirts so folk could readily spot me—or my body—from the air. It’s the kind of mortality issue one’s forced to address.”

From the sounds of it, embarking on a long-haul ferry flight in a turboprop aircraft is akin to an endurance challenge, one that requires careful planning and the ability to entertain oneself for long stretches of time.

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Chuck

When Hawaiian would receive its DC9, MD80, or B717 aircraft, it would install temporary fuel tanks in the center of the cabin to make the hop across the Pacific. The corresponding seats would be retrieved from the cargo hole and installed when the temp tanks were removed upon arrival to Hawaii. All the above was done under a temporary type certificate issued by the FAA.

David G

Many single/twin engined piston powered light planes, Cessnas for example, are delivered from the US to Australia this way. California to Hawaii is a long way and takes a while but is quite feasible. This has been happening for decades. Extra large temporary tanks and a life raft are required. Often travel in pairs.

Trev

Every year a bunch of Basler BT67s (Turbo Prop DC3) and de Haviland Twin Otters fly from Calgary Canada to points all over Antarctica. Probably the longest ferry is between the South Pole and Australia’s Davis Station, a distance of 2400km. A Twin Otter does this with addition of two ferry tanks which triples it’s fuel capacity.

Wyatt

Speaking of somewhat temporary type certificates, when United Airlines decided to reconfigure their Crj-700s to hold 50 passengers like the Crj-200, because of the new weight balance, they had to get it certified again and they renamed it the Crj-550. However, this is unlike the temporary B717 certificate because this is permanent, and they will keep flying this plane for years.

VIJAYAKUMAR J NAIR

Thanks. The article answered my doubt since long

Jack Shields

For some interesting reading Google Ray Clamback.

Met him years ago while I was the manager of test flight and delivery for the Cessna Single Engine program. He delivered several Cessna 172’s to Australia from Kansas during my tenure. He would use a rubber fuel bladder in the aft seat.

Brian Dobson

Thoroughly enjoyed the logistics and preparations. Thanks.

Tony

Dash8-Q400 Delivery from Bombardier’s factory in Toronto to the Philippines starts in Downsview Airport, Toronto with three pilots and three engineers in a complete aircraft cabin configuration. There are five refuelling stops and four Rest Overnight stops including a one day rest. Below are the flight stops:

1) Gander, Newfoundland, Canada
2) Reykjavik, Iceland
3) Le Bourget, France
4) Luqa, Malta
5) Luxor, Egypt
6) Sharjah, UAE
7) Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
8) Dhaka, Bangladesh
9) Rayong, Thailand

Then to Manila, Philippines where the aircraft will undergo standardization.

Peter Wolford

Some Jets don’t have the range nor do turboprops depending on where you’re going. we deliver anything from single-engine through Jets and most of the time, especially for trans-pacific which is longer distance than transatlantic, we have to definitely use ferry tanks or bladders. Surprisingly some singles have a better range than a twin when ferry tanks are installed because of the space within the airplane to put the tanks and the fuel consumption difference. In deliveriesd from the mainland of the US to Japan you can either go up to Seattle to Boeing field to Dutch harbor than Adak then onto Sendai in Japan in pisto planes. In turbo props you may not require ferry tanks since one of the hops can be to Russia where you can get turbine fuel and and continue on toJapan. If the winds are unfavorable there you have to fly a little bit longer distance and go from the mainland to Hawaii which is the longest distance between two points of land. It almost always requires ferry tanks unless you’re flying a jet. But jets very too for example, some 737s can make it other ones we have to tank up. Then you island hop onto Australia or Japan. From Australia you would go to Vanuatu American Samoa Christmas island Maui or Oahu and then to Santa Maria or Oakland and then you’re on to the mainland hopping across.

To ferry you all the seats out of the airplane, build FLAT platforms for the tanks, have them welded to fit and hook them up to a series of valves to choose which tank you’re going to be feeding from. Sometimes people use bladders which need to be secured very securely since they can roll. there are incidents of people taking off and the bladder rolling to the stern of the aircraft and people losing control. A fault with a ferry tanks that sometimes a weld will break on them so neither system is foolproof. Another problem with bladders if there is an air bubble stuck somewhere in it it will eventually rise to the top and fuel flow will cease until you go back open the filling cap on the top of it and let the air out.

to be able to put the fairy tanks into an airplane you’ve got to get a special-use permit and only the people listed on that are allowed to fly the aircraft until it has reached the other end and a mechanic is certified that the tanks have been removed and the aircraft has once again airworthy.

Interestingly until a few years ago you were not even allowed to test fly the airplane with the ferry tanks in it until you were actually taking off for the delivery. And since at that time you have an airplane that is amazingly over gross weight, it could be a very disappointing time to find something out about it that was incorrectly done. One of the processes involved in getting the ferry permit is getting information from the manufacturer of the aircraft and then getting that information to the correct fsdo for that manufacturer to okay it.

By the time you’re done with all the paperwork it’s about 6 to 12 in tall.

As per legs a leg could be anywhere from a few hours to 23 hours and your ability to move in the airplane might be you could actually get up and walk to the back of the plane between the fairy tanks in something like a King Air 200 two if you’re fortunate enough to have a co-pilot and room for one. Being pressed shoulder-to-shoulder in your seats and nowhere to go since the ferry tanks maybe all the way to the ceiling behind you. sometimes they’re lower and you can squeeze between them and the ceiling to get into your seat the other times you can use a cockpit door

Well it’s probably more than you wanted to know but it’s the basics of fairing an airplane. Sometimes tanks break, you have engine issues sometimes you have a beautiful beautiful day and night flying the airplane and you get to have a lot of fun adventures to see places nobody else gets to. They are great fun to do but it’s not as easy as just I’ve got a GPS and I can do this without any issues.

David

Within the last month I delivered two ATR72-600 from Billund, Denmark to Piarco, Trinidad. Our route took us to Iceland, Frobisher Bay, Toronto, Nassau, Piarco. Entire journey took 3days.

Moaz Abid

Maybe ship them across the atlantic like airbus ships the A380 parts

Mel Goddard

As a DeHavilland Flight Service Engineer, I was on several deliveries on Dash-8-300, and 200 aircraft.
The 300s had long range tanks,and went direct across the Atlantic. The 200 had regular size tanks,and we went via Greenland, Iceland, Britain and so forth to Japan.
I also installed large fuel bladders in a -7,to go to Hawaii.
The seats went commercial air freight.
(Made a lot of ‘over time’)
😁

Raymond Kollin

My bucket list is ti use a Cirus G2 to fly around the world. But how hard is it to get permission to fly through Russian Air space. Do I need anything more than a visa or any special certificates?

John P Lafferty

Unfortunately there have been aircraft that have been given a ferry certificate that decided at the mid go-no go point to continue the flight and ended up experiencing stronger headwinds than were predicted that caused them to end up ditching their aircraft into the water. The last one I saw was a single engine aircraft I think was a Cirrus with ferry tanks onboard that used their emergency parachute and was videoed by the US Coastguard off the coast of Oahu. Everyone survived the ditch and were picked up by the Coastguard helicopter. The aircraft wasn’t as lucky and now resides in Davey Joneses Locker.

Tim

A fun collection of wild aircraft delivery stories from around the world can be found in this book:

“So You Want to be a Ferry Pilot” by Spike Nasmyth

SXFlyer

So far I had only one flight on an ATR in my life. Funnily that was on a domestic flight in New Zealand, literally one of the countries furthest away from the assembly of those planes.

Capt. Anant Nerurkar

Having ferried small turboprop aircraft from US to India several times, I can tell you that this requires professional planning and execution. One has to do meticulous fuel planning, and make sure that contingency plans are in place. A casual approach can land the pilot in very serious trouble.

Richard

They make frequent stops, duh.

Srinivasa Murthy Vatturi

Can’t we ship them to nearest port as engine along with parts and assemble it ? This needs a few men to transport to point of assembly.

Bob G.

In 1982 I delivered the first of 2 Twin Otters to Malaysian Airlines from Downsview to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo. 16 Days, 13 Stops. 9 45 gallon drums cradled in the cabin. 14,700 lbs take off weight from Downsview, 15,800 lbs. Take off weight out of Goose Bay. Certified MTOW is 12,500 lbs. Noting like seeing the world from 9000 feet at 140 knots.

Sqn LDR. Arun Bose

Way back in 1964, we, Indian Air Force, have ferried, more than twenty Caribous from Canada to India, by our own crews. SsfullyThe aircraft speed was about 150 knots per hour and endurance of 6 hrs. With fitment of 1000 Gls.We had successfully ferried all those aircraft, without any incidence, even in those primitive days of facilities available in transatlantic crossings.

warren trout

Just like ALL aircraft used to do. Think DC3

Narayana Sunil Kumar

Simply call in the IL Mira break the wings, tail and pack the engines tuck it into its stomach and assemble it. Do a local flight test for license.

Rob Lesser

As an aviation shop I prepped many a single engine aircraft for Trans Atlantic ferry trips.
From Cessnas to crop dusters. Some times as simple as a 45 gal drum lashed to the floor to using the hopper of a crop sprayer. Not rocket science just much red tape for certification process.

Stephen Hodges

I remember my grandfather visiting us in Jamaica by DC3, from the UK. Not sure how many hops, but must have been quite a trip

Bob

Wow this article brings back great memories. In 1977 I made my first ferry flight (I like to call it aircraft delivery flight) from Santa Barbara, California to Honolulu in a single engine 4 seat Cessna 172.
Honolulu was the first Stop for fuel and rest, we actually delivered the aircraft to Melbourne Australia for a total of flight time of approximately 80 hours. The flight from Santa Barbara to Honolulu averaged about 20 hours nonstop and no auto pilot. The right front seat and the rear bench seat were removed and replaced with temporary galvanized metal fuel tanks.
A 50 gallon tank in the right front and 100 gallon tank in the rear. On the right front floor we had two Bendix fuel pumps to pump the fuel directly from the ferry tanks to the engine. After taking off and leveling off for cruise I would immediately start using fuel from the rear tank. The pilot of each aircraft would alternate between the rear tank and the front tank for weight and balance purposes. We kept as much fuel in the wings as possible in case something happened to the Bendix Fuel tanks, we would have at least five hours of fuel remaining to get us closer to Honolulu or back to Santa Barbara depending on our distance. fortunately the session is with the tanks in the top wing with the Bendix fuel pump stopped we had gravity flow from the wings to the engine. It wouldn’t work the same way with the bottom wing aircraft. In the aircraft we carried a life raft, survival gear and always wore a May West (life vest), just in case…We also took along the dismantled seats. On my first delivery flight we had 11 new Cessnas being delivered to Australia.

John O.

Simply Flying, you guys are the best…for some reasons, you guys reads minds of your million followers and answers all likely questions. I have for years wondered how. Thanks these details.

Jim Hertsch

Maybe a lost art as you observe in your comment about deploying the larger aircraft. But this science was perfected in WW2 ferrying bombers and flying cargo in DC-3s to Europe and the Pacific. Even in the 50’s the airliers would often fly Idlewild (JFK)-New Foundland-Iceland-London.

Art

Ferried a plane from Singapore to South Africa a couple of times and what this article doesn’t mention is ETOPS. We had to get an exemption to ferry the plane.

Trevor

Hi Chris
I am honoured you have used my photo as your opening picture however please credit me. Cemair did

michael

Shannon in Ireland is used alot to ferry aircraft

Jim Hertsch

I just came across some YOUTUBE videos about a Manassas-based DC-3 flying to Europe for the D-Day comemoration last fall. The first in the series is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JONkLEx6zeE&t=1127s