Air Greenland’s Fascinating 8-Hour Turboprop Flight

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Update: Here’s an even more interesting Air Greenland flight.

For the most part there has been nothing but bad news in the airline industry lately. If there’s any silver lining, as an aviation geek there have been some cool stories of airlines getting creative in light of all of this.

I’ve written about how Qantas is operating an A380 at the moment nonstop from Darwin to London, which is pretty awesome. However, arguably that’s not the most interesting route right now.

As noted by Simple Flying, Air Greenland is operating what might just be the most uncomfortable flight in the world right now.

Air Greenland’s normal operations

Air Greenland is an airline that has long fascinated me. The airline operates a fleet of eight planes, including:

  • One A330-200, which the airline usually flies between Kangerlussuaq and Copenhagen
  • Seven Dash 8-200s, which the airline primarily uses for flights within Greenland, though also seasonally for flights between a few points in Greenland and Keflavik, Iceland

Air Greenland has suspended flights

For a while Greenland didn’t have any confirmed cases of COVID-19, though that recently changed. The first case was confirmed on March 16, and at this point Greenland has at least five confirmed cases.

In order to stop the spread of this, Air Greenland announced plans to suspend operations from March 20 through April 4, 2020. We’ve seen similar two week service suspensions in many other parts of the world.

Air Greenland’s Nuuk to Copenhagen flight

While all flights were initially suspended, Air Greenland is operating an essential “capital to capital” flight every couple of days, between Nuuk, Greenland, and Copenhagen, Denmark.

Allegedly there are a few reasons for this:

  • To transport essential travelers and those returning home
  • This is the primary way that mail and other cargo can get between the two places
  • Apparently COVID-19 tests can’t actually be processed in Greenland, so the tests have to be flown to Copenhagen

The airline has been flying this route since March 22, and has several more of these flights scheduled.

How this turboprop flight works

There’s not demand for an A330 to operate this route, not to mention an A330 can’t currently take off from Nuuk Airport.

Instead this flight is being operated by a Dash 8-200, which has a capacity of just 39 passengers. There’s only one small problem — the direct air distance between the two cities is 2,200+ miles, while the Dash 8-200 has a range of a little bit over half that.

So the turboprop is flying from Nuuk to Copenhagen via Keflavik in Iceland, with a refueling stop there.

How long does this flight take? On March 22, Air Greenland operated flight 6780:

  • The Nuuk to Keflavik flight (874 miles) took 3hr8min
  • The plane spent just over an hour on the ground in Keflavik refueling
  • The Keflavik to Copenhagen flight (1,337 miles) took 4hr11min

In this case, the plane was in the air for 7hr19min, and everyone was on the plane for well over eight hours.

On March 23 the plane returned as Air Greenland 6779:

  • The Copenhagen to Keflavik flight flight took 4hr58min
  • The plane spent just over half an hour on the ground in Keflavik
  • The Keflavik to Nuuk flight took 3hr2min

In this direction the plane was in the air for exactly eight hours, and everyone was on the plane for well over 8.5 hours.

Bottom line

For the time being, Air Greenland is operating a Dash 8 between Nuuk and Copenhagen, to keep an essential link between the two places. It’s unknown how many people are actually taking these flights.

I would imagine it’s mostly essentials being transported, though presumably some people are also being transported back and forth.

Spending over eight hours on a turboprop sure is something, and makes Lufthansa’s temporary flight to Pune a while back (which I previously called the world’s worst flight) look luxurious by comparison…

(Featured image courtesy of Quintin Soloviev)

  1. Oh man, the longest non-stop I’ve flown in a non-Q400 Dash8 was just three hours, and I was happy to get out. The noise level is quite something. OK for shorter flights, but once you pass 2 hrs, bring your noise-cancelling headsets + plugs..

  2. @ML
    The flight that David was referring to was most likely Icelandic airline Loftleider which flew Canadair CL-44D-4s from JFK to KEF and on to LUX. The turboprop aircraft had a range of over 5,000 miles. Interestingly, Loftleider was the only operator of the passenger version of that type. All the rest were freighters.

  3. Looks interesting. Anyone have any advice on how I can get positioning flights to Nuuk to try this route out??

  4. I know the turboprop already flies from Nuuk to Reykjavik, but I’m still curious with how ETOPs would work on a flight like this. A tiny prop flying 8 hours and crossing half an ocean.

  5. @Mitch

    If you are in Greenland, take on of Air Greenlands domestic flights to Nuuk.

    Elsewhere you probably need to go to Copenhagen if that is possible from your current location. Last time I checked, only 8 planes will land in CPH today.

    Bon voyage (-:

  6. Reminds me of the stories my grandmother told me, traveling to Honolulu from LAX by prop place – took 10 hours one way.

  7. In 1966 I flew on a DC 6 from Johannesburg to Mauritius to Ceylon to Bangkok toTokyo returning with stops in Taiwan and Hongkong – all inclusive 6 week tour for just $1000

  8. I have just done what I think was worse. Repatriation flight from Honduras to the Czech Republic on a 737. Total time on board 21 hours without the possibility to get off at the stops. Route was Roatan-Cancun-Halifax-Keflavik-Prague on a 737-800.

  9. @martin would love all the details you can remember. A DC-6! Wish there were pics. Fantastic!

  10. The only time I want to willingly fly a Dash 8 is in the cockpit. Otherwise, no thank you. I’d rather sit in the last row of a Mad Dog than be in a Dash 8 for any length of time.

  11. Wife (nurse) came home to Denmark, a few days ago with this plane. Anyone know why they “disappear” (Flightradar app ) over the inland ice after take off Nuuk.? Other planes are visible. Not into all this, just curious.

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