How Long Can Airplanes Fly For? – Top 10 Routes!


Have you ever watched an airplane take-off and wondered where it is headed? Maybe it is headed to a destination many, many hours away or maybe its destination is tens of minutes away? Have you ever wondered how long can planes stay airborne?

Airplanes flight duration is limited by the amount of fuel they can carry. The more passengers & cargo they take, the less fuel they can carry. Small, private airplanes typically fly for 2-3 hours, whereas large, long-haul airplanes like the Airbus A350 or Boeing 777 can fly for over 18 hours long.

In today’s article, we will have a look at 10 of the longest routes flown by a variety of aircraft, from a Diamond DA42 to the big birds like the Airbus A350. We’ll also look at some limitations and the fuel required for some of the longest flights.

Aircraft Flight Duration Limitations

1. Fuel

By far the single most limiting factor is the amount of fuel that an airplane can carry in its tanks during long-range flights. When airline pilots check in for a flight, the flight dispatcher usually gives them a complete set of documents containing important things like weight, fuel, weather, etc.

Usually, the total amount of fuel carried is broken down into the following:

Taxi Fuel:

The fuel burnt by the aircraft to taxi to the runway for departure and the fuel required to taxi back to the parking stand after landing at the destination.

Trip Fuel:

The fuel required to make the trip from origin to destination is known as trip fuel.

All Planes Need Go-Go Juice! – Source: Deni Williams

Contingency Fuel:

This is usually 5% of the trip fuel. Contingency fuel covers unforeseen variables like small diversions along the route, stronger than predicted headwinds, an altitude change, etc.

Alternate Fuel:

The fuel needed to conduct one missed approach at the destination and then divert to the nominated alternate airport is known as alternate fuel. This makes up for a significant portion of the total fuel carried.

Final Reserve Fuel:

As the name implies, this is the fuel that should remain in the tanks of the aircraft when it touches down at its destination regardless of all factors. For jet-powered aircraft, this is usually 30 minutes of fuel whereas propeller aircraft carry 45 minutes’ worth of reserve fuel.
Pilots can declare an emergency any time they are using up their reserve fuel.

Additional Fuel:

This is any additional or extra fuel that may be uplifted at the discretion of the pilot in command. Possible reasons to uplift extra fuel can range from bad weather to runway closures. Some airlines require that the pilot in command specify the reason for uplifting extra fuel whereas some airlines do not have this requirement.

2. Fatigue

Flight crew fatigue is a very real concern during long-haul flights. Airlines usually combat crew fatigue by supplementing the original flight crew with additional pilots. Very long-range flights sometimes include up to 4 pilots to combat the effect of crew fatigue.

Pilots take turns to fly in shifts while the other crews either rest in the main cabin or sleep in purpose-built crew bunks that are hidden away above the first class cabin area.

Learn More
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Top Ten Longest Flight Routes:

1. Diamond DA-42

Diamond DA-42 Source – Tony Hisgett

On Monday 16th August 2004, the first-ever non-stop Atlantic crossing by a diesel-powered aircraft took place when a Diamond DA-42 was ferried from Oshkosh airshow in the USA to Wiener Neustadt airfield in Austria, the home base of Diamond aircraft.

The aircraft’s transatlantic leg was from St Johns, Newfoundland, Canada to Porto, Portugal. A total distance of 2186 miles was covered in 12.5 hours, with 72 gallons of fuel being consumed during the entire trip.

The Diamond’s optional 78-gallon long-range tanks were supplemented by a ferry tank of 26 gallons. Normally, the usable fuel in a Diamond DA-42 is 50 gallons, and a further 26 gallons can be stored in auxiliary tanks bringing the total fuel to 76 gallons.

2. ATR 72-600

Air Tahiti’s Tahiti – Totogegie route is the longest non-stop route operated by a turboprop. The equipment used on this sector is an ATR 72-600 which has 68 seats in an all-economy layout.

The time taken to reach Totegegie is around 4 hours.

The total distance covered is 1,028 miles.
An ATR 72 has a fuel burn of 620 kilos per hour.

The fuel breakdown of this trip would be as follows:
Trip Fuel = 5,500 lbs / 2,500 Kg
Contingency Fuel (5% of Trip Fuel) = 275 lbs / 125 Kg
Final Reserve Fuel = 1,025 lbs / 465 Kg

Total Trip Fuel = 6,810 lbs / 3,090 Kg / 3.1 tons

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      3. Airbus A321

      Airbus A321 – Source: Alan Wilson

      The longest route operated by an Airbus A321 is from Boston to San Francisco by JetBlue.

      Total flight time 6 hours and 55 minutes.

      The total distance covered is 2,704 miles.
      The Airbus A321 has a fuel burn of roughly 5,400 lbs / 2,450 kg / 2.7 tons per hour.

      The fuel breakdown of this trip would be as follows:
      Trip Fuel = 37,200 lbs / 16,900 kg / 18.6 tons
      Contingency Fuel (5% of Trip Fuel) = 2,000 lbs / 908 kg / 1.0 ton
      Final Reserve Fuel = 2,600 lbs / 1,180 kg / 1.3 tons

      Total Fuel = 42,000 lbs / 19,000 kg / 21 tons

      4. Dassault Falcon 8X

      Dassault Falcon 8X – Source: Matti Blume

      The Falcon 8X was developed in tandem with the Rafale fighter jet, thus it shares many attributes particularly the flight control system. The first Falcon 8X prototype flew in February 2015 and is the latest generation of the Falcon airframe.

      It is a very common corporate and private jet due to its long flight distance and capacity of up to 14 passengers in the utmost luxury.

      A typical route would be London to Los Angeles in 12 Hours.

      The Falcon 8X has a range of 6,450 NM.
      It has a maximum fuel capacity of 31,600 lbs 14,300 Kg / 15.8 tons .
      An average fuel burn rate of 2,000 lbs / 908 kg / 1.0 ton per hour.

      The fuel breakdown of this trip would be as follows:
      Trip Fuel = 24,000 lbs / 10,900 Kg / 12.0 tons
      Contingency Fuel (5% of Trip Fuel) = 1,200 lbs / 545 Kg / 0.6 tons
      Final Reserve Fuel = 1,000 lbs / 450 Kg / 0.5 ton

      Total Fuel = 26,200 lbs / 11,900 Kg / 13.1 tons

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      5. Gulfstream G650ER

      Gulfstream G650ER – Source: Alan Wilson

      The Gulfstream G650ER is a large business jet that first flew on November 25, 2009. It is considered by many to be one of the most luxurious, prestigious, and expensive planes on the market today.
      In fact, the Gulfstream can be considered a direct competitor to the Dassault Falcon 8X.

      A typical route would be London to Tokyo in 14 Hours.

      With a range of 7,500 NM, there are not many cities that the Gulfstream cannot connect.
      The Gulfstream G650ER has a maximum fuel tank capacity of 43,800 lbs / 19,800 Kg / 21.9 tons.
      An average fuel burn of 2,800 lbs / 1,270 Kg / 1.4 tons per hour.

      The fuel breakdown of this trip would be as follows:
      Trip Fuel = 39,200 lbs / 17,800 Kg / 19.6 tons
      Contingency Fuel (5% of Trip Fuel) = 1,960 lbs / 890 Kg / 1 ton
      Final Reserve Fuel = 1,400 lbs / 650 Kg / 0.7 tons

      Total Fuel = 42,500 lbs / 19,340 Kg / 21.3 tons

      6. Bombardier Global 6500

      Bombardier Global 6500 – Source: Eric Salard

      The Bombardier Global 6500 is the latest business jet in the Global family. It can fly intercontinental routes without refueling or it can connect any two cities around the world with a single refueling stop.

      Presently, the Global 6500 is operated by some of the most reputable companies in the charter jet business such as Qatar Executive, Netjets, Flexjet, and VistaJet. Bombardier plans to introduce the Global 8000 as a successor to the Global 6500 in 2025.

      A typical route would be London to Hong Kong in 13 Hours.

      The Bombardier Global 6500 boasts an impressive range of 6,600 NM.
      It has a maximum fuel capacity of 45,000 lbs 20,400 Kg / 22.5 tons .
      Fuel consumption is 3,100 lbs / 1,400 Kg / 1.6 tons per hour.

      The fuel breakdown of this trip would be as follows:
      Trip Fuel = 40,300 lbs / 18,200 Kg / 20.8 tons
      Contingency Fuel (5% of Trip Fuel) = 2,015 lbs / 910 Kg / 1 ton
      Final Reserve Fuel =1,550 lbs / 700 Kg / 0.8 tons

      Total Fuel = 43,900 lbs / 19,800 Kg / 22.6 tons

      7. Airbus A380

      The longest route operated by an Airbus A380 is from Dubai to Los Angeles by Emirates under the flight number EK 215.

      This route from Dubai to Los Angeles takes around 16 Hours.

      Total distance of 8339 miles.
      It has a maximum fuel capacity of 574,600 lbs / 261,000 Kg / 288 tons.
      Fuel consumption is around 25,400 lbs / 11,500 Kg / 12.7 tons per hour.

      The fuel breakdown of this trip would be as follows:
      Trip Fuel = 406,400 lbs / 69,000 Kg / 203 tons
      Contingency Fuel (5% of Trip Fuel) = 20,300 lbs / 3,500 Kg / 10 tons
      Final Reserve Fuel = 12,700 lbs / 5,800 Kg / 6.3 tons

      Total Fuel = 439,500 lbs / 78,500 Kg / 220 tons

      8. Boeing 787

      Boeing 787 – Souce: Dave Sizer

      The longest route operated by a Boeing 787-9 is from Perth, Australia to Heathrow, UK by Qantas under the flight number QF 9.

      This route from Perth to London takes around 17 Hours.

      Total distance of 9009 miles.
      The 787-9 has a maximum fuel capacity of 247,400 lbs 112,200Kg / 124 tons .
      Fuel consumption is 12,300 lbs / 5,600 Kg / 6 tons per hour.

      The fuel breakdown of this trip would be as follows:
      Trip Fuel = 209,100 lbs / 95,000 Kg / 105 tons
      Contingency Fuel (5% of Trip Fuel) = 10,400 lbs / 4,750 Kg / 5.3 tons
      Final Reserve Fuel = 6,500 lbs / 2,800 Kg / 3 tons

      Total Fuel = 226,000 lbs / 102,500 Kg / 114 tons

      9. Boeing 777-200LR

      Boeing 777-200LR – Source: Björn Strey

      The longest route operated by a Boeing 777-200LR is from Auckland, New Zealand to Doha, Qatar by Qatar Airways under the flight number QR 921.

      This route from Auckland to Doha takes around 18 Hours.

      Total distance of 9032 miles.
      The 777-200LR has a maximum fuel capacity of 325,600 lbs 147,700 Kg / 163 tons .
      Fuel consumption is 14,200 lbs / 6,400 Kg / 7.1 tons per hour.

      The fuel breakdown of this trip would be as follows:
      Trip Fuel = 255,600 lbs / 115,200 Kg / 128 tons
      Contingency Fuel (5% of Trip Fuel) = 12,780 lbs / 5,800 Kg / 6.4 tons
      Final Reserve Fuel = 7,100 lbs / 3,200 Kg / 3.6 tons

      Total Fuel = 275,500 lbs / 124,200 Kg / 138 tons

      10. Airbus A350-900ULR

      Airbus A350-900ULR – Source: N509FZ

      The world’s longest nonstop route is operated by Singapore Airlines using an Airbus A350-900ULR (Ultra Long Range). The flight departs New York JFK airport and arrives at Changi Airport, Singapore under the flight number SQ 23.

      This route from New York to Singapore takes around 19 Hours.

      Total distance of 9537 miles.
      The A350-900ULR has a maximum fuel capacity of 299,200 lbs 135,700 Kg / 150 tons .
      Fuel consumption is 12,600 lbs / 5,700 Kg / 6.3 tons per hour.

      The fuel breakdown of this trip would be as follows:
      Trip Fuel = 239,400 lbs / 108,300 Kg / 120 tons
      Contingency Fuel (5% of Trip Fuel) = 12,000 lbs / 5,400 Kg / 6 tons
      Final Reserve Fuel = 6,300 lbs / 2,800 Kg / 3 tons

      Total Fuel = 257,700 lbs / 116,500 Kg / 129 tons

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      Syed Anas Ali Shah

      Syed has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science before he enrolled in flight school in 2016 where he was awarded his Fixed-Wing CPL with Frozen ATPL. He flies as often as he writes and passing on his love for aviation is one of his greatest passions.

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