The shortest flights in India and elsewhere (Updated in 2019)

As we have seen in the previous article, there are many international flights which cover over 10,000 km non-stop. The ultimate aim would be to have an aircraft which has a range of about 20,000 km (being half the circumference of the earth) which could travel between any two points on the globe without stopping. It would, of course, be useful to have such a missile and probably the US, Russia and even North Korea must have done something towards this end.

Now we look at short flights in India at present. This would appear to be Mumbai-Pune, operated by a 737-800 of Jet Airways. The point-to point distance is 123 km but distance flown may be as much as 211 km (which can be seen from sites such as http://uk.flightaware.com/ ) Quite wasteful for a 737. Other flights under 200 km include Kolkata-Durgapur (164 km), Diu-Porbandar (167 km), and Kochi-Thiruvanthapuram (195 km, actual distance flown 237 km). Some of these sectors are covered by ATR turboprops, others by 737s or A320s which probably doesn’t do much for fuel efficiency.

In the last decade, there have been flights linking Kanpur and Lucknow (63 km) and Jorhat and Lilabari (also 63 km). In the former case the airports are quite far from the city centre so even ordinary buses may turn out to be faster. However, IIT Kanpur now has a helicopter service linking its campus to Lucknow airport. In the latter case there is no satisfactory land route, and it involves crossing the Brahmaputra where, until recently, there was no bridge for hundreds of kilometres.

The real record was held by the Tripura hopper operated by the then IAC in the early 70s, which linked Calcutta with Agartala, Khowai, Kamalpur and Kailashahr with a DC-3.

The distances were:

Agartala-Khowai: 42 km

Khowai-Kamalpur: 23

Kamalpur-Kailashahr: 28

And there are Pawan Hans helicopter services in Arunachal Pradesh which may have similar sector lengths.

Here is an article about the world’s shortest (and longest) flights:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/maps-and-graphics/The-worlds-shortest-flights/

But the clear champion for the world’s shortest flight goes to Loganair’s flight between Westray and Papa Westray in Scotland’s Orkney Islands. This has been appearing in the Guinness Book since at least the 80s, and many articles and videos can be found on the net. This flight is timetabled at 2 minutes but can cover the distance of less than 3 km in 47 seconds in favorable winds. The present fare appears to be about USD 30. Here is a typical description along with a video:

http://www.amusingplanet.com/2013/08/worlds-shortest-commercial-flight-is.html

In 2019, Emirates announced a flight between Dubai and Muscat on an A-380 (which is about 340 km in 40 minutes)-surely an example of overkill. Maybe they could not find any other route for an A380.

For the shortest international flight, we have this 8-minute flight between St Gallen-Altenrhein in Switzerland and Friedrichshafen in southern Germany :

https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/37858497

Longest non-stop flights within India (Revised in 2019)

(Revised and updated in August 2019).

There are many sources on the net listing the longest non-stop flights. This is as good as any other:

This made one wonder which would be the longest non-stop flights within India. There are numerous websites where the great-circle distance can be found merely by feeding in the airport codes, such as: http://www.gcmap.com/

This site also gives details of the actual distance flown which will be more than the great-circle distance which is the theoretical minimum: http://uk.flightaware.com/

We get these as the four longest non-stop flights wholly within India:

Delhi-Thiruvananthapuram (DEL-TRV): 2224 km great circle, actual 2301 km, time 3 hr 20 minute (scheduled)-one pair of flights by Indigo daily.

Mumbai-Guwahati (BOM-GAU): 2073 km great circle, actual 2207 km, time 2 hr 55 minute (scheduled)-two pairs of flights by Indigo daily.

Delhi-Kochi (DEL-COK): 2040, 2112,3:10

Bengaluru-Guwahati (BLR-GAU): 2036, 2113,2:45

You can expect more changes in the future, such as Delhi-Port Blair.

As you can see, scheduled timings depend on wind and other factors so the DEL-COK flight ends up taking slightly longer than the BOM-GAU flight.

There are various multi-leg flights which are longer: Delhi-Kolkata-Port Blair (1315 + 1301 = 2616) and Dehradun-Delhi-Bengaluru-Thiruvananthapuram (207 + 1703 + 529 =2439 km). A single-leg flight on these routes would be 2480 and 2407 km respectively, which should be technically feasible but would not attract enough traffic to be economic.

The same article also gives details of the longest flights for different aircraft models as well as airlines (though it does not include Spicejet and Indigo): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-stop_flight#Longest_flights

You can also look up the shortest flights, in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-stop_flight#Shortest_flights which tells us that the shortest scheduled airline flight is 93 km between Mumbai and Pune, operated by Jet. There are scheduled helicopter flights in the North-East operated by Pawan Hans which may be shorter.

In the Dakota age, there were some legs operated by Indian Airlines which were less than 50 km, as summarized in: https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/a-slice-of-history-indian-airlines-in-1972-and-the-tripura-hopper/

which mentioned one sector in Tripura which was 21 km long.

Here is a news item about the DEL-TRV flight:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/thiruvananthapuram/Tpuram-Delhi-is-the-longest-non-stop-flying-route-now/articleshow/50481743.cms?from=mdr

MH 370: The saga STILL continues

I have written on this topic before. Here is a summary of what was known in December 2014:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/mh-370-the-saga-continues

and a later comment on the Indian angle:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/03/07/mh-370-the-indian-angle/

As mentioned earlier, one forum which attracts a fair number of well-informed comments is:

http://jeffwise.net/

Sometimes a single article attracts over 1200 comments, which are worth reading if you want to know about this deepest of mysteries.

Basically the old idea that the crash’s location was determined by the BFO transmissions is being given less credence now-so if the plane did not go to the southern Indian Ocean, where else could it have gone? This aspect is studied by Victor Iannello here:

http://jeffwise.net/2015/04/29/guest-post-northern-routes-for-mh370-ending-at-airports/#more-3915

Anyone a bit familiar with Indian aviation would see something wrong in his scenario. Look at the map and then see my comment (among the first few).

A 1962 article on Indian Airlines

The now-defunct magazine Flight  now has most of its old issues (from 1909 to 2005) archived as pdf in this website:

http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/index.html

You can find some interesting articles pertaining to Indian aviation here. The only irritant is that each page is stored as a separate pdf file.

For instance, here is a 6-page illustrated article from early 1962 on the Indian Airlines Corporation as it was then. It is particularly interesting to see a map showing all the routes being flown then and the average number of passengers daily. Even the famous Agartala/Khowai/Kamalpur/Kailashahr flight is there on the map and gets due mention.

This should be of interest to anyone interested in the history of civil aviation in India.

Please read the following pages in order:

1962 – 0202      1962 – 0203      1962 – 0204

1962 – 0241      1962 – 0242       1962 – 0243

MH 370-the Indian angle

As the anniversary of the disappearance of MH 370 draws around, we look back at some news reports from last March considering what India may have been able to do at that time and why they did not do anything.

While the transponder on MH 370 ceased to function while approaching the Vietnamese coast, it was still trackable by primary radar until it went out of range. This is the last definitive information we have about its path:

MH370_flight_path_with_English_labels.png

Note that at the last point it is heading towards the Nicobar islands.

We first look at this report discussing possible landing sites in the Andamans and the nearby Coco islands (which are Myanmarese territory). This was written before the Inmarsat pings and the Southern Indian Ocean trajectory became common knowledge.

http://www.ibtimes.co.in/missing-malaysia-airlines-mh370-deliberately-diverted-towards-andaman-and-nicobar-islands-list-of-unused-airports-where-the-plane-possibly-landed-photos-543391

Of course, landing at the Indian airports at Campbell Bay, Car Nicobar, Port Blair and Shibpur could not have happened without the knowledge (or connivance) of the Indian armed forces. And the path to the Coco Islands should have been detected by Port Blair’s radar if it was working.

As this is the most remote part of India, a few maps may be helpful for orientation:Andamans-A 001

Note that the Andamans and the Nicobars are distinct island groups. They are grouped together as a single territory called “The Andaman and Nicobar Islands”, as in the map above.

Most of the population is in the Andamans, and the Nicobars have little population outside the Indian military bases. The forests of both island groups are largely inhabited by tribes who have little contact with the outside world. (You may recall the poison dart man from “The Sign of Four”).Very few Indian civilians (other than those employed by the government) are allowed to travel to the Nicobars.

Another point of interest is that the islands are considerably closer to Myanmar and Indonesia than they are to India. In turboprop days the Indian Airlines Viscount flights from Calcutta to Port Blair used to refuel at Rangoon. Direct flights started only with the 737s.

The islands had been occupied by the Japanese for a long period during WW2.

A closer look at the Andamans (and the Coco Islands):

Andamans-B 001

Here you see the main town of Port Blair, its airport (which is run by the military, who allow civilian flights for part of the day), the little-used airstrip at Shibpur and the Coco islands.

And finally the Nicobars:

Andamans-C 001

Here we see Car Nicobar with its 8900-ft airfield which was wrecked in the 2004 tsunami and promptly rebuilt, and the smaller base at Campbell Bay which handles smaller aircraft and probably has little or no radar. Car Nicobar does handle 737s and A320s on military charters, besides Il-76s and the smaller military transports such as AN-32s.

Note the proximity to Banda Aceh which would have been circumnavigated by MH 370 as many believe.

Now a couple of articles by an Indian aviation expert. This newspaper and the writer are generally considered to be reliable. Of course, these articles are based on what was known at the time of writing.

From the Hindu of 18/03/2014:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/disturbing-scenarios-on-mh370/article5797358.ece

and from the same paper of 26/03/2014:

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-possibility-of-pilot-suicide/article5831677.ece

These two articles reflect what was known at that time. I am not sure whether the writer’s comments about the state of affairs at the radar facilities at Car Nicobar and Port Blair are fully reliable. But if the Car Nicobar radar was functioning, it would certainly have caught some part of the track of MH 370 before if it disappeared towards the South Pole (or to the Maldives or Diego Garcia if you believe those theories).

However, even if you stick to the northern path to Baikonur or nearby, it would be difficult for it to get through the radars of Kolkata international airport and several large air force bases in eastern India where the radar would be better monitored than in the sleepy outposts in the islands.

Footnote: A total of 239 persons were aboard the missing aircraft, being 12 crew and 227 passengers. 5 passengers were listed as Indian citizens. There may have been a few crew members and passengers from Malaysia with Indian-sounding names.

MH 370-miscellaneous notes

What India and Pakistan had to say about the “Northern Route” last March:

http://www.ibtimes.com/malaysian-airlines-flight-370-india-pakistan-say-they-know-nothing-saw-nothing-1562057

What the Maldivians said they saw on March 8:

http://www.maldives.com/destination-guides/debris-missing-flight-mh370-washed-beach-maldives/762

http://www.maldivesfinest.com/maldives-eye-witness-furious-mh370

And if they did see something, could it be from this airline which has cargo flights between Sri Lanka and the Maldives:

FitsAir Wiki

The colour scheme of the DC-8 is not too different from that of MAS. Here is a closer look:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FitsAir#mediaviewer/File:Expo_Air_Douglas_DC-8-63CF_Rioux.jpg

Their current website is below. Perhaps someone in Colombo could take a closer look at them:

http://fitsair.com/out-of-sri-lanka.html

Looking into the history of aviation accidents in India-1

Today I will mention the resources available for anyone wanting to find out more about the history of civil aviation accidents in India. Perhaps the most convenient is the US-based http://www.planecrashinfo.com which attempts to cover every accident with the loss of 10 or more lives and many other significant accidents all over the world. It covers both civil and military aircraft. You can search for various regions or airlines. Remember that India has a large number of airlines which lasted for some years and then vanished or were taken over, right from the 1950s. Then there is the Netherlands-based site http://aviation-safety.net/index.php which has somewhat better coverage of less serious accidents all over the world, and includes a wiki where readers can add details and accidents which the compiler missed. This will get you some of the lesser-known accidents in India and elsewhere. There are a number of books by David Gero (see his listing in Amazon.com) which offer more details of selected accidents. These books are a bit costly by Indian standards. Basically he has 4 titles which have gone through several revisions “Aviation Disasters”-last revised 2006; “Military Aviation Disasters” (2010), “Flights of Terror” (ie hijacks and other terrorist incidents)-also 2010 and “Early Aviation Disasters” (accidents before 1950) (2011). All major accidents involving India (as well as Indian aircraft abroad) are covered in these books. What remains to be discussed are primary sources for accidents involving Indian civil aircraft. Here there are some documents in public domain.  For Indian military aircraft  you can forget even that (except for RAF and USAAF records) and your only source is the newspapers. One must admire the dedication of some researchers who seem to have gone through the newspaper morgues in Hyderabad right from the 1940s and have got a reasonable database together. Will conclude the discussion of the primary sources the next time we meet.