What's the longest distance any airplane has ever taxied/traveled on land?

See subject query. Yes, that thoroughly inane one. What GQ was invented for.

Under its own power? or towed/pushed/shipped?

Under its own power…I thought of that after I posted.

How often do they ship complete, air-worthy (peacetime flyable, at least) aircraft? “Wings, wheels to follow” shouldn’t really count.

That is definitely a strange question and I am not sure that any records are kept for that type of thing. My strong suspicion is that it was for taxi testing for experimental aircraft on a dry lake bed like those near Edwards Air Force base. You can drive forever in long circles in you want and there are known landings that also taxied for miles. That is much longer than the longest paved runway in the world.

The land record for the longest taxi might have been set inadvertently by Private Pilots just messing around. The longest runways in the world are about about 18,000 feet. If you had a failure on takeoff and had to taxi back, that would add on another 18,000 plus the taxiways. If you assume the taxiways are an additional mile, that is still only less than 8 miles total and that is the most extreme example I can think of for any airport in the world.

I can easily believe that someone in a small plane or an experimental aircraft drove around in large circles for a much longer distance. Dry lake beds also afford a very long natural runway that can run for many miles. All someone has to do is to abort a takeoff and taxi back a few times to run up a large number of miles even if they aren’t doing taxi testing.

As an irrelevant aside, the longest flight in terms of duration is one of the strangest trivia facts that exists. It wasn’t measured in hours or even days. It lasted multiple months and was flown by two people in a Cessna 172 around the Las Vegas area from December 4, 1958, to February 7, 1959 continuously that went for about 150,000 miles without landing. They got fuel, supplies from a chase car and even did oil changes while in the air.



Leo, the above link talks about the CIA’s efforts to move the A-12 prototype over the roads on a tractor trailer, from the Skunk Works plant in Burbank, to the test site at Groom Lake, NV. (AKA Area 51). Not quite what I think you wanted, but hopefully still interesting.

From forumers:

An estimated 13.5 miles due to changes in take off direction and air strip, caused by inclement weather. Another recounted a total taxi time of 6 hours.

Old Denver Stapleton used to have a runway that was often used and required about a 2.5mile taxi from the terminal area. That’s before any disruptions or changes in planned runway. They’d tacked this extra runway on late in the airport’s life and it was the only nearby land they could get. It’s the one at the top of this photo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stapleton_International_Airport#/media/File:Jun1993-StapletonAirportDenver.jpg

That’s about the longest planned taxi I personally have done.

Years ago I did get stuck in a snow storm event at DCA where we changed the direction of the airport twice. So the whole Conga line was set up to take off North to South, then was re-arranged to go South to North, then after that was done and before anybody actually took off the wind shifted again and we rearranged everybody back to N to S.

DCA isn’t very big, so the total distance involved was small. But for the controllers it was like a lot like playing this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/15_puzzle. And the longer it took the more extra aircraft piled up in the way.

I recall things got testy a time or three. When it sounded to me like a frustrated mob was about to lynch the controller over the radio I put on my best soothing PA voice and said “Gentlemen, gentlemen. Don’t forget we’re all paid by the minute.” Things quickly calmed down … for awhile.

IIRC we were about 4 hours from push to takeoff and that is not my personal record.

A Space Shuttle (I don’t remember which) was towed on its own wheels from Palmdale to Edwards AFB, a distance of about 52 miles.

How do you define “airplane”? The jet powered land speed record cars Thrust 2 and SSC were more than capable of entering (uncontrolled) powered flight if the pilot left the aerodynamic controls alone. Thrust SSC’s record run was over a 14 mile course.

As a general rule aircraft tires aren’t designed for extended rolling. They flex while rolling and will overheat pretty soon. Car & truck tires flex too, but we put vastly more weight on a single tire. For round numbers a fully loaded 767 has the full weight of a fully max-loaded 18-wheeler truck sitting on *each *tire.

When they towed the shuttle I know they did it very slowly. It has 4 main wheels and has an operational empty weight around 150,000#. So roughly 40K#/ wheel. Which is still a lot. On the same order as a 737, A320, or MD80. All of which have ground distance limited tires.

There may have been some Shuttle internal fitments not completed at Rockwell to lessen the weight for the trip. But it couldn’t have been much.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to learn they used different tires or even something where the actual spacecraft gear legs & wheels sat in a small cradles with 4 conventional truck tires each. Kind of like those trailering dollies folks use to tow cars behind U-Haul trucks.

We could determine how long the wheels of a plane could hold up to extended taxi distance somehow. Maybe if we put it on some sort of device where the wheels would spin but the plane would stay in one place. Sort of like some kind of belt traveling in a loop. Maybe it could match the speed that the airplane wheels are spinning the whole time.

Yeah, but would this idea fly?

In addition to travelling on land, we might also consider what’s the farthest a plane has traveled on water. Transatlantic flying boats used to dock at the Marine Air Terminal, which is now Terminal A at LaGuardia Airport; I’m not sure where they taxied to before takeoff. And the fastest planes in the world in the '20s and '30s were seaplanes that competed for the Schneider Trophy. I read somewhere that, because they were so optimized for high-speed flight, it could take them a few miles on the water to build up enough speed to take off.

It seems like the planes at Detroit Metro’s Macnamara terminal taxi for three hours at an approximate speed of 10 miles/hour after landing, so I offer my completely unproven estimate of: 30 miles.

Don’t forget when you load an entire working plane with passengers and cargo, meals, that SAG or Actors Equity would get involved for even more headache.

I sort of remember a thread (not the treadmill one) where a bunch of YouTubes were introduced with this setup, on engineering tests of when wheels catch fire.

Courtesy of the front page today on Wikipedia, from the article on Thomas White (First World War pilot who later became an Australian MP):

Despite the popular meme to the contrary, flying cars have existed since the 1940’s.

They are also in active development now through companies like Terrafugia. I am not sure what the point is because hybrid cars/airplanes tend to be less than mediocre at best for both tasks but they do exist.

The longest ‘taxi’ may be a longer distance road test of one of the flying car models under development. I can’t say how long that is exactly but, even if it is 20 miles or longer, it is likely longer than any airliner or light plane that wasn’t designed for dual use.

You could write them to ask how long their longest road test was to establish some baseline for comparison.

If you are going to include flying boats this Russian model would be the winner.

I just wanted to say that it once took longer to taxi from the runway to the terminal at Chicago’s Ohare than it took to fly from Milwaukee to Chicago O’hare.

In the same vein, I once had a flight from San Luis Obispo to LAX wherein the flight plus the Taxi to the terminal took longer than it would have taken me to drive myself from San Luis Obispo to home in Burbank.