How Short Haul Aircraft Are Ferried Halfway Around The World

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Delivery flights are usually a much-celebrated event for airlines, with planes occasionally flying from far-away factories to their new homes. While long and medium-haul aircraft can usually make this hop with a stop or two, how do short haul aircraft reach their destinations halfway around the world?

Austrian Dash 8
Ferrying turboprops over large oceans for delivery can be quite the journey. Photo: Austrian Airlines

Short-haul aircraft usually include regional jets and turboprops, which have ranges of around 1,000 nautical miles. For instance, de Havilland Canada manufactures its popular Dash 8 turboprop near Toronto, making it quite the journey for any European or Asian customers. Similarly, ATR produces its turboprops jets in Toulouse, France, making some of its journey to Asia-Pacific and North America quite lengthy.

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Range and weight

Every aircraft has a listed maximum range, which varies depending on the total weight of the aircraft on each flight. On long ferry flights, short-haul planes are usually flown empty to increase the range of the aircraft, with only the pilots and essential crew onboard.

The absence of dozens of passengers and heavy cargo can add hundreds of miles to the overall range of the aircraft. This becomes particularly important during long stretches over the ocean, where the range is critical.

Qantas Dash 8
The absence of passengers and cargo can significantly increase the range of smaller aircraft. Photo: Qantas

This balancing act between range and weight is key to minimizing the number of stops an aircraft has to make on its journey from the factory to the customer. Without an extended range, some long stretches may simply be impossible.

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Stops

You may have guessed that the main way short-haul planes reach their destination is by making stops. Lots of them, depending on the distance. On these stops, aircraft will usually refuel and occasionally even swap crews depending on the total flight time.

For instance, on a transatlantic journey (which many Dash 8s make), planes could stop in Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and the UK, before reaching the European continent. Similarly, on trans-Pacific flights, planes will make stops in Alaska and different locations in Russia.

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Porter Q400
Turboprops make multiple stops, even six or seven, on long ferry flights. Photo: Alasdair McLellan via Wikimedia Commons

These oceanic hopes can prove to be dangerous too, with few diversionary airports available around. Some reports say that pilots on these ferry flights even carry emergency survival gear and life rafts in the event the plane faces technical or weather issues over the ocean.

Add-ons

To increase the range of the aircraft on ferry flights, airlines may also install temporary fuel tanks on the seats or cargo hold. This adds more range to the aircraft and ensures it can make an emergency diversion if required. This is something Hawaiian Airlines had to do on its Boeing 717s to get them back to the mainland.

ATR, Production Target, 2020
Manufacturers can also choose to add fuel tanks to extend the plane’s range on a ferry flight. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Overall, the journey of short-haul aircraft from their production facility to their new homes can be quite rigorous. However, after decades of delivering hundreds of aircraft, manufacturers know how to safely and efficiently deliver these aircraft.

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