How Long Can a Plane Fly Without Refueling

How Long Can a Plane Fly Without Refueling

There is no limit to how far man’s technological accomplishments will be stretched to satiate the hunger for high-tech aero-industry; still, the aviation industry is striving to surge the hours of flying without refueling. 

Aero-industry is one of the spectacular prodigies of the technological pinnacle in the modern world. It has drastically changed the overall dynamics of traveling in terms of distance and flight duration. Now we have, long-haul flight, a term used for flights that expand over a long distance between its taking off and landing, however, there are no definite specifications regarding the limits of a long-haul flight. Most flights over 10-12 hours are considered long-haul flights, yet the term varies with area and airlines.

The aero industry is studiously considering shedding the limitation of refueling for as many hours as possible. Ultra-long haul flights, still another term, for flights that surpass an air time of 16 hours or more in one stretch without any need for refueling. Subsequently, these flights require more supplies for passengers, and recreational activities, moreover, the stamina of the crew is to be considered as well.  

How Long a Plane Can Fly without Refueling

This question has long enthralled the engineers to upraise the flight duration and is directly associated with various factors that affect the flight time of an aircraft. There is a remarkable uplift in technology adding to the flight time compared with the previous century’s aeronautical industry’s flight durations. 

The situation is relatively rare, where you get the best of both worlds. Still, the adamant engineers are contributing exhaustively to bring drastic changes in flight durations up to 20 hours. However, there is always a limit, as stretching it too farther will also bring into question the efficiency levels of the crew and pilots. 

Factors Contributing to Long hour Flights

While an aircraft is piercing through the air, at high speed, with the comfort and luxury of home, many factors affect the aerodynamic efficiency of the flight. The engine and other devices’ appropriate working, fuel, consumption, and aircraft’s speed and it’s weight. One of the significant limitations while covering long distances is the necessity of refueling for the continuity of the journey.

So far, the commendable flight times achieved and the limitations attached to the phenomenon are discussed below.  

Weight of the Aircraft

The weight of the aircraft matters a lot in terms of flight duration; when the fuel is burning, and the engine is producing the thrust force to move the plane ahead it carries all the weight. So weight drastically affects the fuel consumption on a plane. An airplane has its weight, the fuel weight that it carries, then the passengers and the cargo also remarkably add-on to the plane’s weight although passengers can only carry a few ounces while traveling.

Let’s get into statistics, an Airbus with 555 passengers weighs around 560,000Kg, on the other hand, a Boeing with all its passengers can have a maximum weight of 330,000 Kg while taking off. 

The thrust force carries all this weight while takeoff and during flight, if the weight of passengers and cargo is reduced somehow, then the fuel efficiency can be geared up and the flight can sustain even more hours in the air. 

The Fuel Capacity

The amount of fuel an aircraft can carry will affect the plane’s mileage; however, the more the fuel capacity, the more weight is added to the aircraft, which even increases the load on the plane and utilizes more fuel. 

A Boeing 747 weighs only 171,000Kg without refueling, and once the fuel is added to the craft it weighs 240,000 kg, adding a weight of 69,00Kg to the aircraft’s original weight. So we see that the fuel itself adds a hefty amount of weight to the flight.

Longest Flight without Refueling

Some records of long-stretched flights without refueling are flabbergasting and raise applause for the technological success of the aeronautical industry. The details of these records are as under:

Longest Non-Commercial Flight

To prove this, let’s consider the example of a lightweight airplane, Rutan Model 76 Voyager, which weighed only 4397 Kg with fuel and covered a vast distance of 40,000 kilometers with an unmatchable figure of 216 hours to boast.

Longest Commercial Flight

The maximum distance covered in the air is 20,000 Km by the Boeing 777-200 LR commercial flight, which flew from Hong Kong for 23 long-drawn-out hours and landed in London in 2005. 

However, the commercial flights, including huge Airbuses and Boeings, have a record of around 20 hours on a stretch. Although fewer passengers, lesser turbulence, good airspeed, and friendly altitudes, these hours can even be stretched further. 

Longest Commercial Flights 

The demographical traffic infrastructure has changed drastically after the prolonged period of pandemic engulfing the whole world. Most long-haul flights have also disintegrated in terms of distance and timings. 

 Some commercial flights are still stretching over time limits to cover the most extended distances in one go without refueling. Most airlines have proffered flights expanding over a long time of around 19 hours in one stretch. Here are the top five longest commercial flights:

 Singapore-New York Flight

The longest commercial flight available without any refueling is 18 hours and 50 minutes, flying over a distance of 15348.31Km that’s about 9523 miles, from Singapore to New York, offered by Singapore Airlines. 

New Zealand-Qatar Flight

The second longest flight is being offered by Qatar Airlines; it takes off from Aukland, New Zealand, and travels a distance of about 14535.6 km, around 9032 miles, and finally lands at Doha, Qatar, after staying continuously in the air for 17 hours and 50 minutes. 

Singapore-Los Angeles Flight

Another flight operated by the Singapore Airline exhibits an ample time of 17 hours and 50 minutes in the air carrying its passengers from Singapore to Los Angeles over a distance of 14471.22Km, i.e., 8991 meters. 

Melbourne-Dallas Flight

Another long commercial flight without refueling is from Melbourne, Australia, to Dallas that stays in the air for 17 hours and 35 minutes and covers a distance of 14471.22 Km, that’s around 8992 miles; the flight is being conducted by Qantas Airline.


The longest flight operated by Emirates Airlines is from Dubai to Auckland, which lasts for 17 hours and 10 minutes, connecting over an area of 14200.85Km which is approximately 8824 miles.

How Refueling Works

Big sizes are accompanied by enormous benefits, as in the case of an airplane’s refueling; it does not have to go to a gas station; instead, the case is quite the opposite here; the gas station comes to the aircraft to refill its tank. 

Fuel Farms

A particular term is used for the reservoir of fuel set-up at the airports known as the fuel farms. These fuel farms have colossal tanks for storing thousands of gallons of remarkable quality jet fuel. The fuel farms are suitable, equipped with high-quality checks, security against any hazards, and an impeccable transport system for the fuel.

There are two ways the jet fuel is transferred to different aircraft all day long at an airport. 

Fueling Trucks

There are special fuel trucks carrying huge capacity fuel tanks that are positioned right next to the aircraft after it is landed. Before starting the fueling process, a ground wire is connected to avoid any production of static current during the fueling of the tank. 

Then the fuel supply pipe is connected to the airplane fuel inlet and locked; the fuel is thrust into the fuel tank through high pressure from the truck. An intricate system displays the fuel transferred, and the status is checked meticulously to avoid any mishap. 

Fuel Hydrants

Another way of fuel transfer is through fuel hydrants. Fuel hydrants, as the name might ring, are the same as fire hydrants with inbuilt pressure for fuel supply. These hydrants are on the runway and connected to the fuel farms by an underground system. 

On an aircraft’s approach, a fuel hydrant truck positions itself near the fuel hydrant. It is connected to the hydrant from one end and to the aircraft fuel inlet on the other side, and the mechanism of pressurizing for the fuel supply is at work in these hydrants. 

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy is a highly desirable attribute in increasing the efficiency and economy of the flight. Considerable advancements are made, and engineers are working hard to improve them with each passing day. These days, commercial aircraft have taken fuel efficiency to a remarkably appreciable level.

The fuel capacity of a Boeing 747 is 63,500 gallons, and that of an Airbus A380 is 81,890 gallons, and these planes burn 5 gallons per mile and 10 gallons per nautical mile, respectively. The figures might seem intimidating concerning the cost; however, if you do good calculations of fuel burnt per passenger on these flights, the efficiency is even higher than your SUVs on the road. 


Today’s aeronautical industry has a lot to boast about the long-haul flights sporadic all over the last two decades, racing towards beating every record. The longest record of a commercial flight was of 23 hours in 2005 and an implausible figure of 216 hours by a non-commercial plane, Rutan Model 76 Voyager. However, these days the longest hours in the air offered by Boeings and Airbuses are up to 19 hours without refueling, which is applaudable. Still, there is some new astonishing expansive flight-hours underway to keep you flabbergasted. 


How long can a plane fly without stopping?

Planes can now fly for about 18 hours and 50 minutes without stopping. Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport is the longest commercial flight in the world. During this flight, the plane flies for 15,000 Kilometers without stopping. 

How long can an A320 fly without refueling?

An A320 has a record of 17 hours and 15 minutes longest flight operated by Emirates Airlines, from Auckland to Dubai, covering a vast distance of about 8824 miles in 2016. 

How long can an A380 fly without refueling?

How long a plane can fly without stopping depends upon aircraft load, speed, tank capacity, cruising altitude, weather conditions, passenger load, the direction of the wind, and other factors. Generally, if the passenger load is 544 and an average speed is 800 km/h, then A-a380 can fly for 18 hours without refueling, which means an A380 can cover 15,200 km without refueling. 

How long can A 747 fly without refueling?

If A 747 is flying at an average speed of 900 km/h, it can fly for 16 hours without refueling. That means A 747 can cover a distance of 15,000 km without refueling. 

How long can A 787 fly without refueling?

If A 787 is flying at an average speed of 903 km/h, it can cover a distance of 14,140 km without needing to refuel. 

How many miles can a plane fly without refueling?

A commercial plane can fly for 23 hours, covering 12,247 miles without refueling. While on the other hand, a non-commercial aircraft can fly for 18 hours, covering a distance of 9,540 miles without needing to refuel. 

What is the longest flight without refueling? 

A noncommercial, two-crew aircraft with dimensions of 9 meters in length, 3 meters in height, 34 meters in wingspan, and weighing about 4,397 kg with fuel flew for 216 hours without refueling. This was the Rutan Model 76 Voyager that took off from Edward Airforce in the Mojave Desert. While on the other hand, a commercial plane, Boeing 777-200 LR, remained in the air for about 23 hours, covering a distance of 12,247 miles without refueling.

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