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Range and ease of long-distance travel

My inspector Colin Hales is flying around the world in a KR2 with a short-ish range. Part of the reason for this is that he takes the attitude that flying is for seeing places and meeting people, and if you fly too far too fast, you don’t get to do this. I agree entirely, but there are also places in the world where it’s best not to land – such as Afghanistan, Japan or the bit of sea and ice between Longyearbyen and the North pole.

Clearly to do some trips you simply need an aircraft with a long range. e.g. it’s a 1430Nm round trip from Longyearbyen to the North pole, or 5000Nm from Ushuia to the South Pole and back. If you’re flying from Australia to New Zealand the longest leg will be 480Nm. Plus reserves. On the other hand, Tracey Curtis Taylor’s aircraft made it from the UK to Australia with a range of only 450Nm which is pedestrian, and I believe the longest leg in the Crete2Cape was a bit more than 200Nm (I can’t find the reference) – which seems surprisingly short.

I have no specific plans at present so I apologise if my question seems annoyingly vague, but I find myself wondering what the attributes are in an aircraft that make such trips easier? Is there a point at which additional range is rarely useful? Are other factors such as the ability to use Mogas or use rough runways more valuable?

Speaking as someone who has flown from Longyearbyen via (both) the North Poles and on to Canada, I can only agree that range was a factor! Not only enough fuel to reach Eureka, but with a reserve that would exceed the total range of most SEPs

But for long sectors, just as important as range is speed. The other day, a friend and I were going to the same destination (Glasgow) from different airfields in the SE of England and decided to meet up, arranging our departure times to suit. He was doing 140kts and I 195. The headwind was stronger than forecast (about 50kts) and that meant that I arrived, refuelled, put on the cover, had a cup of coffee and then decided that we would not wait any longer! Against a headwind in particular TAS is king.

EGKB Biggin Hill

CYFB to BGSF (Iqaluit to Sondrestrom) is around 500nm with not too many alternates, which might suggest that a solid 800 or 900nm range is a reasonable range on the northern route across the Atlantic?

Oxford (EGTK), United Kingdom

The NATL crossing requires about 800 NM range, not necessarily because of the part west of Iceland but to get to Iceland at all from Europe. Vagar is quite unreliable as a fuel stop destination due to the weather, which means you have to get to Iceland from Scotland. Thereafter, the legs are fairly short.

Ideally however a plane with 1000 NM or more will give a lot more flexibility on that route.

LSZH, Switzerland

I’m in the camp of “you can never have enough range”. Empty tanks don’t weigh a thing – no reason not to have the option the times you need it.

With our Army Cub for -49, we sometimes have to bring along a jerry can of fuel. I would much rather have an extra tank of fuel also in the other wing (common on newer Cubs). My Onex has only about 3 h endurance (with reserves), but it goes considerably faster than a Cub, so it will fly a longer distance. Still, I have wondered how to get some extra fuel in there, in the wings or something. At least around here, the problem is not so much the range or endurance, but the limited places you can get fuel. Larger tanks will always be better.


I have 5.5 hours to bone dry at 110 knots indicated in my Rallye. Let’s call it 400-450 NM legs with reserve. When the weather is good, that range is fine for just about anywhere I want to travel. Unexpectedly bad weather forcing diversions is where greater range would come in most handy. Otherwise, I’m just fine stopping and getting to know the locals, even if they’re cannibals. I agree, that is part of the fun!

Mogas would be great. That will be a real consideration for me in buying my next plane. Short field (more important than rough) capability also adds utility: many more places to land; you can often get closer to your destination; and the fields are often lovelier than long asphalt ribbons with handling fees and bureaucracy.

Last Edited by WhiskeyPapa at 20 Apr 10:26
Tököl LHTL

WP agree, the 90 HP Army Super Cub has six hours plus endurance at 80 knots, although the original Patton L-4 only had around three hours. I haven’t tested the endurance, longest sector has been around 3 1/2 hours, the SC seats are not designed for more than two hours!

Oxford (EGTK), United Kingdom

RobertL18C wrote:

the 90 HP Army Super Cub has six hours plus endurance at 80 knots, although the original Patton L-4 only had around three hours

We have an original L-18C with 90 HP Continental. It has one single tank, endurance around 3h or 400 km. I’m sure a tank can be added, but I don’t think that they originally came with this extra tank.

Last Edited by LeSving at 20 Apr 10:52

A lightly inflated swimming ring helps a lot on long haul flights and car trips.

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