# Shortest distance from the U.S. mainland to Hawaii

Well, at approximately 60º South, between the tip of South America and Antarctica, is the one place you can circumnavigate the entire earth without ever flying over land. The earth is smaller there than at the equator or most great circle routes, though.

That would not be on a single vector, though.

As you go south along California coast you also go east. As most trivia sites know Los Angeles is further east than Reno

The State of Hawaii.

Thanks for the clarification. Then the answer is French Frigate Shoals, Hawaii, to King Cove, Alaska, at 2,190 standard miles, assuming the airstrip at FFS meets your definition of an “airport.”

Kure Atoll would be closer but the airstrip there is abandoned.

Using the Nat Geo Atlas’ distance measuring tool I get:

● 2,298 miles: Cold Bay AK to Lihue
● 2,318 miles: San Francisco to Hilo

Johnny I’d recommend a Learjet 60. It has a range (with 4 passengers and 2 crew) of 2,405 *nautical *miles. Enough, with reserves, to hop over to the Islands for a day on the beach.

I was thinking more of a Cessna 172 or Piper PA-28. (Not for myself, of course.)

It’s going to involve an aircraft carrier then. Probably 4. Should be no problem in a 172 then.

2000 NM, at 113 kts.

17.7 hours.

9.5 gph (realistic)

168 gallons, + 1+ hour at least = 180 gallons

at 6 lbs. a gallon - = 1080 lbs. of fuel.

I’m seeing a slight problem with the math here. Ariel refueling perhaps?

As md2000 notes in Post #12, it’s been done. That’s actually why I posted this thread; to find the shortest distance, calculate the amount of fuel needed, how long it would take, etc. I like doing these mental exercises from time to time. Your numbers are helpful.

That’s a calm-air range. The flight from California to Hawaii is pretty much always into a good headwind.

Getting a heavily overloaded lightplane into the air is not going to happen on a 2500 foot asphalt strip even if it is in the Arctic at sea level. So in addition to least distance, you need to consider takeoff performance.

Plus, as ElvisL1ves points out, you need to factor winds. You’re going to be flying air miles, not ground miles. Over 2200-2400ish miles flown slowly, it may well be fewer air miles to fly 2400 ground miles diagonally across the wind than to fly 2200 ground miles head-on into the same wind.

The French Frigate Shoals airstrip is closed except for emergencies and by special permission of the Fish & Wildlife Service, so you might have a bit of trouble refueling there. On the other hand, I can think of worse places to end a one-way trip.

Of course. But one datum at a time.

Balance. That’ll be fun.

Specs from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cessna_172#Specifications_.28172R.29. All numbers below rounded for simplicity.

Ref Morgenstern’s earlier post you need 180 gallons = 1100# of fuel. The standard useful load is ~750#, and if we assume 350# for pilot, food, extra fuel tankage, and survival gear, that means we’ve got about 400# left for fuel below normal gross. Which means with 1100# of fuel we’ll be overgross by about 700#. Which is about 25% over standard gross. So that’ll fly, but not real well. Be sure pick a cold day and a long runway with no obstacles in the departure path.

If we need 180 gallons of fuel and standard tankage is 56 gallons, we need to install ~130 gallons of tankage. That’s only 18 cubic feet. Which is not much bigger than a human: 1+ feet deep, 3- feet wide, 6 feet tall. So cabin space is no obstacle.

As long as you put it real close to the ordinary CG, it won’t have much moment. Handily enough that’s also where the factory put most of the rest of the useful load accommodations. AKA the co-pilot’s seat. So a tank set that fits more or less in that footprint mostly solves the fore-aft CG issues. Maybe an extension forward into the right side rudder pedal well and anther extension out the back behind the left seat to provide some lateral balance. Of course you should load the non-fuel weight asymmetrically left/right to offset the lateral imbalance of the takeoff fuel load.

Nav & obtaining weather info is certainly a solved problem now. Not so in the 1960s.

Each extra hour of flying costs 10 gallons, 60#, and 1.5 cu ft of tankage. But gets you another 100nm of range.

The point of this tradeoff being that absolute shortest air distance is not an absolute requirement. Even for something this far from the airplane’s design mission we have trade space to work with. Certainly there are ferry missions that simply can’t be done with a C-172. Which implies there are ferry missions that can just barely be done. US to HI is not one of those "just barely"s. At least not for a C-172.

Fun to think about, but I’ll pass on doing it myself.

Cessna 123XX, right turn, new heading 090, and you’re IFR to where sir??!!!?? Say again aircraft type?

Airliners in oceanic airspace sometimes have convos with these low & slow ferry missions. You’re where doing what? You want us to relay whatever to whoever? The latter is less of an issue every year with lightweight ADS and HF or satphone / satcomm rigs.

Engine Turns Or Pilot Swims takes on a new immediacy when you leave the “s” off engines.

That’s for the 172R. I was thinking of the tankage on the more-common earlier models: 42 gallons total, 38 usable.

I think the burn is around 7 gph at 55% power, which gets you about 100 knots. Of course, there’s no way you could take off at 55% power, and I don’t know if that’s enough to maintain altitude when you’re over-gross. If you can maintain altitude, I suspect your speed will be lower.

I concur. As my dad used to say, ‘Better thee than me!’

You’re flying across the ocean when you hear your engine spit
You see your prop come to a stop, the God Damn engine’s quit
The ship won’t float, You cannot swim, the shore is miles behind
You’ll be a dish for happy fish but you will never mind
You’ll never mind, You’ll never mind…