Air Greenland’s Record-Breaking Turboprop Flight

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Air Greenland was making headlines a few weeks ago for their transatlantic turboprop flights, but they’ve just operated a flight that’s in a league of its own.

Air Greenland’s Copenhagen link

In late March I wrote a post titled “Air Greenland’s Fascinating 8-Hour Turboprop Flight,” about the way in which they were operating flights between Greenland and Copenhagen:

  • Air Greenland has suspended regular passenger operations
  • The airline continued to operate a link to Copenhagen for medical staff, COVID-19 tests, and more
  • The airline has a single A330 that they usually fly between Kangerlussuaq and Copenhagen, though the plane is currently undergoing maintenance, and offers way too much capacity anyway
  • As a result, Air Greenland has been operating nearly eight hour flights between Nuuk and Copenhagen, with a stop in Keflavik, Iceland

Air Greenland flies 7hr52min nonstop on Dash 8

In recent days Air Greenland took Copenhagen service to a whole new level:

  • On Sunday, April 19, 2020, Air Greenland operated a 7hr25min nonstop flight from Nuuk to Copenhagen
  • On Monday, April 20, 2020, Air Greenland operated a 7hr52min nonstop flight from Copenhagen to Nuuk

The flight was operated by a 23 year old Dash 8-200 with the registration code OY-GRP. The 2,200+ mile flight overflew Denmark, Norway, the Shetland Islands, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland. In the event of an emergency, they had plenty of diversion airports, including Stavanger, Vagar, Egilsstadir, Keflavik, and Kulusuk.

The flight from Nuuk to Copenhagen was being operated as an evacuation flight for an insurance company (with a patient onboard, in addition to the crew), and then the return flight became historic. The return flight had four people, including two pilots, one flight attendant, and one doctor.

The 7hr52min flight on Monday is historic for a couple of reasons:

  • It’s allegedly the longest Dash 8-200 flight ever
  • It’s the first ever nonstop flight from Copenhagen to Nuuk (the airport only has a runway of 3,100 feet)

How is this nonstop flight possible?

Believe it or not, the plane wasn’t reconfigured with extra fuel tanks, or anything, but rather because the plane was so empty it was able to operate this journey nonstop. The plane landed back in Nuuk with another 400 kilos of fuel, and the captain says that they could have flown for another hour.

He also said that they could fly nonstop from Nuuk to Copenhagen with up to 10 passengers, assuming the winds aren’t unfavorable.

Since the plane had no cargo, they actually had to weigh it down a bit for weight and balance.

The Copenhagen link is being cut for now

As of April 17, 2020, Air Greenland is cutting the “air bridge” between Greenland and Denmark. As mentioned above, the primary reason for this was that COVID-19 testing wasn’t possible in Greenland.

Now Greenland has their own testing equipment, and therefore the link is no longer needed between the two places. You can expect some flights to continue, but not as many as in the past.

This also means that they can shut down their temporary Copenhagen base. The way the airline had staffed these flights is quite interesting — Air Greenland had crews temporarily based in Copenhagen, and crews based in Nuuk (as usual).

The plane would refuel in Keflavik, and they’d trade crews there. That meant that one crew would fly from Nuuk to Keflavik to Nuuk, and the other crew would fly from Copenhagen to Keflavik to Copenhagen. This was intended to minimize the movement of crews as a preventive measure for COVID-19.

Bottom line

What an unbelievable nonstop flight Air Greenland operated. I’ve been dreaming about being on many of the cool one-off flights we’re seeing right now (like the Titan Airways A318 to Saint Helena), though I have to say that an eight hour turboprop flight isn’t one that tempts me very much.

What a cool journey, though!

(Tip of the hat to Matthias, featured image courtesy of Quintin Soloviev)

  1. I find the Dash-8 tolerable for flights of 1 hour max. Now imagine 8 very noisy hours…

    Off topic, but I figure Garuda Indonesia flying to South America was something we also previously didn’t expect to see. But hey, Corona came, and now flight GA8800 took place yesterday, BKK-KNO-AMS-GRU…

  2. Just want to say, that your blog is still very interesting during these no fly times. Keep up the good work!

  3. @ Lucky:

    “…though I have to say that an eight hour turboprop flight isn’t one that tempts me very much.”

    So I guess you would not have enjoyed, in 1997, the Swissair commemorative DC4 flight from JFK to Geneva via Gander and Shannon. 19 hours in an unpressurized and rather noisy piston-engined plane. Add some weather between YQX and SNN and you see the picture. The turbulence at 8,000 ft, by the way, has nothing to do with the one at 32,000 and one understands why those barf bags were needed. To be honest, the flight was not continuous, with two nights spent in Gander and Shannon.

    Although repainted in Swissair old colors, the plane was not Swiss but South African, with a ZU registration. Not very comfortable and vile food (they really could have made an effort, especially considering that the price was steep) but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

  4. Most of us frequent flyers are also geography buffs. One fact worth mentioning is that this 8 hour trans-Atlantic flight from Nuuk to Copenhagen is actually considered a domestic flight within the Kingdom of Denmark since Greenland is part of Denmark.

    Air Greenland and all aircraft in Greenland are registered according to ICAO under the Kingdom of Denmark (OY).

  5. Yes, definitely bring your Noise Cancelling headset of choice. The Dash 8-200 Series wasn’t part of the Q Series that had in-cabin built-in active noise cancellation. As far as I know, that was limited to the later model Dash 8-400 Series.

  6. Nope!! I stand corrected, there were Dash 8-Q200’s and Q300’s made from 2nd Qtr 1996 onward. So if this is a 23 year old aircraft, it MIGHT be a Q model.

  7. Bunch of wusses.

    Transpacific and transatlantic flights were done with piston andeturbop aircraft for 30 years before the 707 etc changed life.

    DC6, DC7, Bristol Brittania, Convair, Vickers Vanguard to name a few

    My perhaps faulty memory recalls the Dash 8 to be much quieter than the old girls. Possibly a bit bumpier.

  8. @ Azamaraal:

    Vickers Vanguard ????

    I don’t think so…Maybe Trans Canada Airlines, but I doubt it.

  9. @Pierre

    You are right – Vanguard was TCA regional. They were flying Constellations and North Stars TATL.

    Definitely flew TCA Viscounts and Vanguards twixt St. Johns and Toronto into the 70’s. Viscount was a regional and I thought the Vanguard was long range but just discovered it was also medium range and just a bigger variant. The Britannia was definitely trans Pacific (Canadian Pacific Airlines).

  10. If the runway is only 3100 feet, how did the a330 that used to fly there operate? I might have misread what was flying there before

  11. @ Michael — The A330 flies out of Kangerlussuaq rather than Nuuk, as the former has a much longer runway.

  12. Is (was?) AF’s (or Tahiti Nui’s, I can’t remember which) flight Paris to Papeete (w/a stop at LAX) treated as “domestic”?

    I have been on a Longyearbyen to Oslo n/s, and it was treated as domestic. I think the flight was 6 hours, more or less.

  13. @ Al,

    It can’t be treated as “domestic” because of the stop in LAX (not only because of US insisting on transit pax needing to enter and leave US, but because of passengers mix onboard, some going to LAX). Stop in LAX is changing, though see Ben’s article recently.

    Besides, France has always had a “mixed” arrangement regarding all flights from “DOM/TOM” (French overseas communities), with passengers arriving in France needing to go through customs (not Immigration) due to different taxation regimes in some overseas areas, nothing heavy handed but existing.

  14. 1960 long flight with engines going in and out of syncronasation on a TEAL – later Air NZ Super Connie from Nandi to Auckland . Just as you were ready to drift off all 4 would sync and really shake it up.
    168 got lucky and crossed the Indian Ocean in a QUANTAS Electra from Perth to Cocus Keeling then to Maritius.1st hop was 8 and 2nd was 10 as I remember. Long slog but no piston sync problems. I was a teenager and Mom raised the arm rests and lay across the seats while I stretched out on the floor. We we’re lucky because Sud Afrikanse operated the route with DC7’s which toook looonger and 4 big radials needing to be synced. Friends of took DC7 a year later and I watched the takeoff. Boy was that slooow they used pretty much the whole runway and it was the slowest climb out I have ever saw.

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