Range (aeronautics)

The maximal total range is the maximum distance an aircraft can fly between takeoff and landing. Powered aircraft range is limited by the aviation fuel energy storage capacity (chemical or electrical) considering both weight and volume limits. Unpowered aircraft range depends on factors such as cross-country speed and environmental conditions. The range can be seen as the cross-country ground speed multiplied by the maximum time in the air. The fuel time limit for powered aircraft is fixed by the available fuel (considering reserve fuel requirements) and rate of consumption.

Maximum Endurance and Range versus airspeed. The maximum endurance condition would be obtained at the point of minimum power required since this would require the lowest fuel flow to keep the airplane in steady, level flight. Maximum range condition would occur where the ratio of speed to power required is greatest. The maximum range condition is obtained at maximum lift/drag ratio (L/DMAX)

Some aircraft can gain energy while airborne through the environment (e.g. collecting solar energy or through rising air currents from mechanical or thermal lifting) or from in-flight refueling. These aircraft could theoretically have infinite range.

Ferry range means the maximum range that a aircraft engaged in ferry flying can achieve. This usually means maximum fuel load, optionally with extra fuel tanks and minimum equipment. It refers to transport of aircraft without any passengers or cargo.

Combat radius is a related measure based on the maximum distance a warplane can travel from its base of operations, accomplish some objective, and return to its original airfield with minimal reserves.


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