It's relatively easy to transport jet aircraft like Airbus and Boeing: most of them have a long range, and a few hops at most would get them to the owner.

But how would a Cessna manufactured in U.S. be delivered to Dubai? It would not have the range to cross the Atlantic. Taking a brand new single-engine aircraft across a large ocean also sounds very risky (to the occupants). Same story applies to Hawaii.

Getting there may also require many hops (e.g. Texas -> California -> Canada -> Alaska -> Japan -> Taiwan -> Singapore), making the transportation long and costly.

Are they put on trailers and shipped like cargo? If yes, how is the aircraft taken apart? (I'd imagine even the wing span of a 172 would be too wide for roads in many countries)

EDIT: the linked question addresses airliners. I am specifically interested in GA airplanes.


5 Answers 5


As you've guessed, there are two options: a ferry flight, or shipping the aircraft in a container.

Ferry flights are quite common; the recent Cirrus ditching in the Pacific was a ferry flight to Hawaii. As well as planning a suitable route and dealing with permits and paperwork, refueling etc., the ferry company may install extra fuel tanks to give more range, and provide the pilot with specialized survival and communications gear. And an airline ticket home, of course :-) This might all seem expensive, but considering that a new top-of-the-range Cirrus SR22 has a list price of almost USD 800,000 you can imagine that ferry costs aren't necessarily a big deal in comparison.

The second option is to put the aircraft in a container and ship it, and there are some companies who specialize in this (the page has some small photos of aircraft in containers). The major concern in this case is removing the wings: gliders and many experimental (e.g. home-built) aircraft are designed to have their wings removed for storage and transportation (towing behind your car) but most typical Cessnas, Beechcraft etc. aren't. You need to have the aircraft professionally and carefully prepared and then re-assembled and checked after delivery.

Which option is best depends on the costs of each option and the value of the aircraft. There's also the consideration that if you buy a 60-year old aircraft from the other side of the world, ferry companies may decline to fly it to you because of the risks of subjecting it to the stresses and weather of a very long series of flights. Or their/your insurance company may refuse cover for a ferry flight for the same reason. Or perhaps the aircraft is certified for VFR only, which would make a long ferry journey much more difficult to plan and execute. In those cases, container shipping may be the only available option.

  • $\begingroup$ Your "extra fuel tanks"-link is pointing to a non existing site (error 404): turtlepac.com/products/collapsible-aircraft-ferry-tanks.html $\endgroup$
    – jklingler
    Sep 12, 2016 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ @jklingler Thanks! I replaced it with a link to Wikipedia, which should be better $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Sep 12, 2016 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ Question: Does the fuel from the extra tanks get pumped into the wing while in flight? Or is the tank somehow connected with the engine and feeds it directly? $\endgroup$
    – jklingler
    Sep 12, 2016 at 12:40
  • $\begingroup$ @jklingler I have no idea, that could be a good question to ask. I guess it depends on the aircraft type and what's physically possible without major alterations. And what a regulator will approve, of course. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Sep 12, 2016 at 16:19

You can often get to Reykavic airport in Iceland for crossing the Atlantic.

If that hop is still too far you can install extra fuel tanks in the cargo hold and/or passenger area temporarily.

  • $\begingroup$ Transatlantic ferry flights often stop at CYQX, BGBW and/or EGPC as well. $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2016 at 21:43

I can't tell you, if this applies to Cessnas or not, but at least some of the lighter planes are simply shipped by ship or cargo planes. They take those apart. Not completely of course, but they take off the wings and tail. Once they are arrived, they put them back together or leave that part to the new owner.

I don't know whether this applies to all or some planes, but at least my boss's was transported this way. He went to Rotterdam to pick it up.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "He went to Rotterdam to pick it up." doesn't really mean much with no idea where your boss normally lives. That could be the next town over, or several countries away. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Oct 20, 2015 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling You're right. To clarify: He lives in Switzerland. $\endgroup$ Oct 21, 2015 at 13:03

Newly manufactured US general aviation aircraft are usually flown by pilots who work for (or contract to) delivery companies.

As an example, Piper contracted a lot of their deliveries to a company who specialized in worldwide aircraft delivery pre-GPS. Anthony Vallone was one of their pilots and wrote Air Vagabonds which clarifies the dangers of flying small GA aircraft solo to various parts of the world.

Some companies provide delivery flights to their region for used and new GA aircraft. Clamback and Hennesey are notable for to/from Australia deliveries and have had to ditch in a near new Cessna 182 due to engine failure.

Atlantic crossings now mandate IFR and so VFR only aircraft are more likely to be container shipped. However Vallone's book details temporary fitment of nav/comm to comply with over ocean requirements like HF radio.


All the new aircraft deliveries I have been involved with were done by the buyer or the leasee. The normal process involves a physical inspection of the aircraft, paperwork, accessories, making sure the correct documentation is in hand, as well as one or more test flights to assure aircraft performance. In every delivery I have accepted, there is usually a squawk list, and the manufacturers are great at performing seeming miracles overnight. It is not uncommon that there is a couple of days of squawks. I often invite a factory test pilot along on the flights, as that helps identifying issues.

Some of the things I check include the rigging and trim of the aircraft, the power plant performance, the radio installations (which can require some coordination when picking up a plane mid-continent and testing HF), the autopilot systems, and the ECS.

Funds are transferred and paperwork is filed, and a flight to the destination is accomplished. Normally close fuel and power plant monitoring is done for that flight, and things like WX radar, strike finders and other avionics are extensively run.

If we don't have someone who has significant experience in the aircraft, we take training at a place like Flight Safety, in a simulator. Training is normally classified as initial or recurrent. The training outfit can tailor the training to include the specific equipment and engines that are included in the delivered aircraft.

The bulk of the aircraft I have personally accepted of delivery on are turboprops and jets, but it also includes a few piston aircraft. Some local flight schools, charter and FBOs have hired me to accept delivery of aircraft for them.

In my opinion the acceptance of new aircraft is more than just kick the tires and ferry the aircraft. It is a through systems checkout, and verification that all documentation is in place, cosmetics are good, and so, verifying that the end user receives a plane which is unlikely to have any issues, and that it performs as advertised.


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