How far can you fly? – Part I

This weekend I decided to see how far I could fly in a general aviation airplane. My plan was to choose an aircraft, fly one or two test flights to check fuel consumption and speeds and then fly to a destination to test those figures.

Selecting aircraft and departure

I like to fly my aircrafts from the last place I left them, so I looked at my saved flights to see which one I could select. I found a Beechcraft Bonanza A36 parked at Invermere, Canada (CAA8). The cold would certainly help me when attempting to maximize my range, so I selected that one. However, it is surrounded by mountains, which would make my life more difficult when climbing with a fully fueled plane to service ceiling.

I decided to depart Invermere and fly to Claresholm Industrial (CEJ4), in Alberta Canada, and use that flight to test fuel consumption and other aircraft performance figures.

Test flight

Test flight went smoothly. After looking at the performance tables and making some calculations, I figured that 13000 would be the optimum altitude to fly at, so i planned to fly that during the test flight too.

Long story short, I climbed to 13000, and found that in the cold -11C outside temperature, my Bonanza was burning about 9 gallons per hour and flying at 150 KTAS. This meant that I could fly little more than 16.5 nm with one gallon of fuel, while cruising at 13000.
I also noted down the time and distance to climb and descend.

Planning the flight

Taking into account the usable fuel capacity of the Bonanza and the figures I got from my test flight, I estimated a maximum range of about 1170 nm, with about 45 minutes of reserve fuel.
I looked at enroute charts and tried several destinations until I found Wawa airport (CYXZ). Taking into account the airways I was going to follow, the total distance was 1172 nm.

Now I needed to check the winds and temperatures, to make sure I wasn’t going to be surprised by the weather. Winds first:

Wind forecast

As you can see, I marked my general route with an arrow on the chart, and it it lines up nicely with the prevailing winds at 12000 feet. Good news! Now on to the temperatures:

Temperature forecast

Once again, I marked my route in red, and you can see I will remain below ISA -5 (5ºC below International Standard Atmosphere temperatures) at all times, and some times below ISA -10. This represented similar conditions to what I found during my test flight, so I should be ok.

Ok, now the flight plan route itself. I mentioned before I had plotted my route to check the range, so this is already done. The final route looks like this:

CEJ4 YXH V300 VLR V302 VBI V300 YQT V242 YSP V13 YXZ CYXZ

As you can see, the route is quite simple. I will be following the V300 airway most of the time. After arriving to YQT VOR (Thunder bay), I will follow V242 in order to keep near the shore of the Lake Superior. I don’t want to run out of fuel with my feet wet, so to speak.

Regarding departure times, as you can probably tell from the timestamps on the charts above, I am planning to depart quite early to make the most of the low temperatures, so I will be taking off at first light.

All in all, I will be looking at around 7h20 minutes of cruise flight, plus takeoff, climb, descent and landing. Total flight time should be a little more than 8 hours, from engine start to shutdown. Just in case I could not make it to Wawa (that’s a great airport name, isn’t it?), I planned for two enroute alternates: Thunder Bay (CYQT), on the western shore of Lake Superior, and Marathon (CYSP), on the eastern shore. This would effectively make the YQT VOR the go/no-go point for our final destination of CYXZ.

Stay tuned for the flight report to see if I made it!

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2 responses to “How far can you fly? – Part I

  1. Great stuff from youR cockpitglass.wordpress.com , man. Ive read your stuff before and youre just too awesome. I love what youve got here, love what youre saying and the way you say it. You make it entertaining and you still manage to keep it smart. I cant wait to read more from you. This is really a great blog.

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