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Trip Report: The World’s Longest Dash 8-200 Flight
The Dash 8 variant has a lot of versatility from the smallest Dash 8-100 to the Dash 8-400, which is more commonly known as the Q400. The -200 variant was the least popular of the series with only around 100 being built and delivered, among the over 1,300 Dash-8 family aircraft built so far with the Q400 still being in production.
The Dash 8-100 and -200 variants have almost identical features, with the only differences being the -200 offers a higher max takeoff weight (MTOW), a higher power (2,150hp compared to 1,800hp in the -100), higher cruise speed (289 knots versus 270 knots in the -100), and a slightly longer range of 1,295 miles versus 1,174 miles in the -100.
The Q400 is found on longer routes such as Porter’s former Ottawa to Melbourne, Fla. route, which sits at roughly 1,220 miles and the flight was around three hours. The Q400 is also a lot larger with roughly 78 passengers on most of them, the Dash 8-200 is a lot smaller with around 35-38 passenger seats. It is not found on many long routes.
The Dash 8-200 is still widely used by agencies and governments around the world including the United States and Canada alike, but most only have a few of the type with Air Greenland having the most Dash 8-200s of any commercial airline, just taking possession of their eighth Dash 8-200.
Greenland’s national carrier, Air Greenland, operates very few international flights leaving Greenland with most of them leaving from Kangerlussuaq as that is the only commercial runway in the country long enough for the airline’s sole Airbus A330-800neo, but some do leave from Narsarsuaq on a summer seasonal basis but don’t operate on the carriers own metal and instead operate on lease Boeing 737-700s from JetTime.
Currently, the only other nearly year-round international flight on the carrier’s own metal is a twice-weekly flight from the nation’s capital of Nuuk to Reykjavík/Keflavík in Iceland. The flight runs on Sundays and Wednesdays for most of the year, with a hiatus in service between mid-June and late August, and spans roughly 874 miles.
There are many trip reports and articles out there about the “longest flight in the world” between New York City and Singapore, and the “shortest flight in the world” between Westray and Papa Westray in Scotland. But the longest flight on a particular aircraft isn’t talked about that often, and even less so a long flight on a small prop plane such as the DeHavilland Dash-8. That is what this trip report is about.
Day of the Flight
The flight left Iceland’s main international airport in the late afternoon/early evening, but seeing as the airport is so far from the capital I decided to make my way there earlier than one would need to, arriving around four hours prior to the flight.
The departure time of the flight was at 4:55 p.m. local time, but the ticket counter doesn’t open until around 2.5 hours before the flight, so I did have some time to wait before it opened. Air Greenland’s ticket counter at Reykjavík/Keflavík is located between SAS and Icelandair’s Europe desk.
It was apparent that they are Icelandair agents checking us in at a makeshift desk, as the boarding pass does show an “Icelandair” logo along with the words “Air Greenland” on the bottom. This makes total sense and it’s not just Air Greenland that does this, some airlines do use other airlines’ materials on occasion especially when they serve an airport with a lower frequency like on this city pair, and don’t want to spend the money for a low-frequency airport.
Greenland is a very unique destination, geographically it’s in North America but it feels more like Europe than anything else. They use the Europe type C plug, and Greenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, which means Greenland is technically in the European Union. Denmark and Iceland are also part of the Schengen Zone, meaning citizens of a Schengen country can travel between them without a passport or border checkpoints. Greenland and Iceland are a little bit difficult to do this, as they are both islands and require flights or boats to get to them, but this does mean traveling between them doesn’t get you another stamp on your passport.
The gate we used was also a bus boarding gate. The airport has a lot of these gates since it is a large international hub but doesn’t have much physical gate space. Most Icelandair and PLAY departures/arrivals happen simultaneously, the airport does not have enough jetways connected to the buildings to house all the flights and that doesn’t even scratch the surface of other airlines that serve Iceland like Air Greenland. Despite how busy the airport was, it was very well laid out and it didn’t feel crowded in the slightest.
Even though Air Greenland is still trying to acquire more Dash 8s, the -200 program ended years ago so none of the airplanes that the airline is getting are straight from the factory. The aircraft I flew on OY-GRP was built in 1997 but Air Greenland didn’t take possession of it until 2015, and flew for many different operators before coming to the airline.
Air Greenland’s Dash 8 200 is laid out in a 2-2 configuration with the last row having five seats across the back, making 37 seats total.
The aircraft was named ” Qooqa ” which is a legendary hero of epic stories of the Inuit people in the Arctic regions of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland, and could also be known as Qayaq in Alaska.
The seat I had originally selected for this flight was 8A, a left-side window seat just behind the wing. The left side is best for flights from Iceland to Nuuk as they tend to make a left bank around the city when arriving, giving you a great view of the Greenlandic capital just before landing.
A True ‘First Class’ Experience
But, I got invited into the cockpit by the crew and they even asked if I would like to sit in the jumpseat located in the cockpit. I would have to be crazy to turn down that opportunity, so I took my seat in the cockpit for the over three-hour journey to Greenland. Some would consider this even better than first class.
The engine was started up and I watched the crew do their pre-flight checklist in person, something I have never been fortunate to see before on a commercial flight. The crew was also nice enough to show me a map of our route to Greenland on their iPad.
We then taxied out to the runway and rocketed westward toward Greenland, on board the longest Dash 8-200 flight in the world. A video of the takeoff is located at the end of this article.
As we gained more altitude I looked out the right side of the aircraft and I could see Iceland disappearing into the distance before finally going behind my line of sight.
It was so fun watching the takeoff from this perspective, seeing the clouds in front of you during the climb as they slowly came towards the plane, versus in the cabin seats you can only really see straight out the sides and not much ahead or behind the aircraft.
About 20 minutes after takeoff, all passengers were given a meal. Even though this is a small aircraft and doesn’t have intricate systems to prepare meals, this technically was a long-ish international flight. I was given potato salad with meatballs, which I translated from the label on the packaging that was in Danish so I apologize if the translation is not 100% correct.
About 40 minutes after the main meal, we were given dessert which consisted of an apple crumble cake thing. Not large, but it was still good and better than anything you get on a U.S.-based carrier.
It wasn’t long after that we began to see the first glimpse of Greenland, meaning we were nearing the halfway point of the journey. This was actually my first time seeing Greenland in person, even with a couple of transatlantic crossings I’ve flown in the past, the flights have either been at night or Greenland was completely covered by clouds.
A fun fact about Air Greenland’s Dash 8s; even though the airline has eight of them currently, only two of them are able to make this journey from Nuuk to Iceland. OY-GRP, the aircraft I was currently flying on, and the other is OY-GRO. This is because these two planes are equipped with auxiliary fuel tanks so they can make the longer journey.
Despite these longer fuel tanks, they still can’t take a full load of passengers. They are only allowed to have 35 of the 37 passenger seats filled for these longer flights to Iceland, which wasn’t a problem on this flight as there were only 26 onboard.
Diversion points are also very limited on this route between Iceland and Nuuk. With no communities or runways in the center of the country, options include the following; turning back to Iceland if that is closest, Kulusuk, Greenland which is located roughly at the halfway point of the flight on the east coast of Greenland, and then Nuuk on the west coast of Greenland. Kangerlussuaq, which is located north of Nuuk, does serve as the diversion point if the weather is bad in Nuuk.
At the time of writing this article, there isn’t a single precision approach at any commercial airport in Greenland. So when weather like snow, fog, or even high winds affect Nuuk, aircraft do sometimes get diverted to Kangerlussuaq for safety.
We began flying over the inner east coast of Greenland and the mountains, and just starting to see the Greenland ice sheet.
With meal service over, what was left to do is enjoy the view. Our cruising altitude was 24,000 feet or 7,315.20 meters, lower than most aircraft around this part of the world, meaning that our route to Nuuk was pretty direct from Iceland. It was almost a straight shot over 7oo miles from Iceland to just outside of Nuuk before we hit the next waypoint.
This means there wasn’t much turning either and you could enjoy the beauty that is Greenland, as most of this flight offers spectacular views of the ground below.
We flew over the ice sheet for around 50 minutes, and towards the end of that time, we started to see the western shores of the world’s largest island.
Shortly before reaching the edge of the ice sheet, we began to make our slow descent into Nuuk.
We then passed over the edge of the Greenland ice sheet, making way for the mountainous terrain leading to the western shores.
Despite the snowy weather in the days leading up to my trip, the weather on this day was absolutely stunning with few clouds in the skies leading to amazing sightseeing as we made the approach into Nuuk.
Nuuk is only about 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle, meaning that they do get snow during most months of the year.
We also passed over the settlement of Kapisillit, which translates to ‘Salmon’ in Greenlandic and refers to the belief that the only spawning ground for salmon in all of Greenland is a river near the settlement. The population of the community is only around 50 residents.
I spent the rest of the flight sightseeing, as there was no weather and hardly any clouds, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking going into Nuuk. Even with a seat in the main cabin, the views are stunning no matter which side you are seated on.
The entire way in – between flight tasks of course – the pilots were pointing out landmarks and explaining facts to me along the way into Nuuk.
Then I saw it, the capital of Greenland, Nuuk, was jutting out of the mountains on a low-lying point pinpointed by the pilots.
As I predicted from the past paths this flight has taken, we approached the city and went around the north side of it, banking left, giving those on the left side a wonderful view of the smallest country capital in the world by population.
When flying over I could also see the runway project. Currently, the largest plane that can land in Nuuk is the Dash 8-200 as the runway is only 3,117 feet/950 meters. But, with the new runway that is planned to open hopefully at the end of 2023, it will more than double the runway to a new length of 7,200 feet/2,200 meters, making it possible for narrowbody aircraft and even the airline’s flagship Airbus A330-800neo to land here in Nuuk. The width of the runway will also nearly double as well, making it possible for the larger aircraft to land here and also increase the max crosswind landing limit.
They are using part of the old runway as the taxiway during the runway project. They are also building a new terminal that will be able to handle the extra passengers that come with the A330-800neo serving the airport, meaning once the construction is complete the current terminal will be decommissioned.
We banked around the city, giving us a great view of the capital, then, after 3 hours and 13 minutes of flight time, we touched down in Nuuk, bringing to an end to my trip on the longest Dash-8~200 flight in the world.
The approach to the airport was fantastic with all of the mountains and snow-capped peaks as well as the Greenland ice sheet. I also got really lucky with the weather having nearly clear skies with no clouds, as the day before this was super snowy, and the day following this flight was completely overcast.
The terminal was small and will someday soon be phased out when the new larger terminal opens just south of the old one. Right after getting off the aircraft, I asked the crew if I could take a picture with them, and they were happy to do so which wrapped up this flight very nicely.
There aren’t many longer routes left on the small version of the Dash 8, and with the new runway opening in Nuuk later in 2023 or early 2024, there is a chance this route could be upgraded to a narrowbody on a leased aircraft similar to the route into Narsarsuaq or even on the carrier’s own A330-800neo on a seasonal basis.
But, for now, the route continues to live on year-round except for a brief hiatus for two months from June 18, 2023, until the end of August 2023 when it will once again resume with the same schedule, as they use the aircraft for flying within Greenland during the heavy tourist months in the summer. This is a must-try AvGeek bucket list route for those that like small aircraft like I do, and are looking for a unique experience of flying them on such a long route for its type, and I am glad I could cross it off my list.
A video account of the Longest Dash 8-200 flight in the world can be found below:
Editor’s Note: Air Greenland provided AirlineGeeks with the seat on this flight, but this trip report is an objective portrayal of the events and is in no way swayed by that aspect.
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