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Two questions regarding ferry flights:

  1. When an aircraft has to be delivered, who flies it to the destination airport? Does the manufacturer have a dedicated crew for this or is it up to the airline to send someone over?
  2. When an aircraft is sent to Victorville (Southern California Logistics Airport), who flies the plane? Is it a dedicated airline crew or is it a contracted-out service?

Thanks!

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    $\begingroup$ When I just saw the title question, my first thought was "Pilots, usually." $\endgroup$ – reirab Oct 19 '15 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ Not really an answer, but there was a recent BBC article about this very subject bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34484972 $\endgroup$ – Dan Oct 19 '15 at 18:53
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Ferry flights encompass much more than delivery and retirement flights. Any time an airplane has a problem that can't be fixed on-site they can generally obtain a ferry permit to get it to an airport that the maintenance can be completed at.

At the airline I worked for, all flights, including initial delivery, were conducted by pilots on our seniority list and other airlines I'm familiar with have the same requirements in their contract language. Our airplanes were manufactured in Brazil and a crew would be take an airline flight down to the Embraer factory, accept the airplane and fly it to a US customs station and then on to our main maintenance airport. These flights were fairly uncommon and often went to very senior and management pilots.

Normal ferry flights for aircraft repositioning or maintenance needs were generally done by low-seniority reserve crews because those tended to be non-scheduled activity and show up with short notice.

In all cases though, at my airline, ferry flights were conducted by company pilots. This can vary by airline and there probably isn't a universal definitive procedure common to every airline.

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Usually, ferry and delivery flights have different meanings. It differs from aircraft to aircraft.

  • In case of new commercial aircraft, the delivery team from the airlines are sent to the manufacturer, where they accept and bring the aircraft to the airline location. The delivery procedure of Airbus is as follows:

The delivery phase is spread over four or five days on average, dependent upon the aircraft programme. A standard delivery procedure takes place as follows:

1st day: ground checks: external surfaces, bays and cabin visual inspection, static aircraft system and cockpit checks, engine tests.

2nd day: acceptance flight: checks during flight of all aircraft systems (including cabin systems) and aircraft behavior in the whole flight envelope.

3rd day: physical rework or provision of solutions for all technical and quality snags open in delivery.

4th day: completion of technical acceptance. Technical closure of the aircraft and all associated documents attesting the aircraft’s compliance to the type certificate and conformity to the technical specification allowing the issuance of the Certificate of Airworthiness.

5th day: transfer of the aircraft's title deeds to the customer airline: the aircraft changes owner. Preparation of the aircraft for the ferry flight to its home base.

  • For GA, ferrying is done by ferry pilots. There are also some companies that perform these services for small airlines etc.

  • A ferry flight usually refers to the positioning of aircraft for maintenance, repair etc. This is done by the pilots of the airlines usually, with a special permit (i.e. the aircraft is not airworthy, but is flyable). As noted before, this can also be contracted out.

For military aircraft, it is done by the service pilots.

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  • $\begingroup$ Could you clarify what you mean by "service pilots"? Are those pilots trained for non-combat operation only? $\endgroup$ – Lilienthal Oct 19 '15 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Lilienthal: I know that a lot of European F-16's were flown from the States, which necessarily involved mid-air refueling. That is a skill rare outside military pilots, and the various Air Forces are not going to train a set of non-combat pilots just for these one-off ferry flights. $\endgroup$ – MSalters Oct 19 '15 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ @MSalters Hmm, maybe. I kind of imagine pilots starting out without a combat certification and then following more advanced training and thousands of sim hours before being allowed into combat. Plus, regular ferry flights probably won't be trans-atlantic. $\endgroup$ – Lilienthal Oct 19 '15 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ @MSalters: I don't know that crossing the Atlantic with an F-16 "necessarily" involves mid-air refueling. Wikipedia quotes the ferry range of the F-16 as 2280 nmi (with drop tanks). If you're willing to make some stops, that's no problem. JFK-YQX-KEF-LHR has its longest segment at 1371 nmi. Throw in a stop at GOH in Greenland and you get it down to 922 nmi - probably don't even need the drop tanks then. $\endgroup$ – Nate Eldredge Oct 20 '15 at 3:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Lilienthal: Given MSalter's point, I think aeroalias means "service" as in "armed service", not as in "maintenance/repair". i.e. a US air force pilot would fly a US air force plane if it needed to be ferried anywhere. $\endgroup$ – Peter Cordes Oct 20 '15 at 5:00
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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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