Most commercial flights will have to taxi a short distance to the end of the runway, before actually taking off. But in an absurd, absolutely extreme case, what if that passenger plane could only taxi, not fly? How far would the plane be able to taxi before it runs out of fuel?

I imagine that the answer is in the ballpark of "many times around the world", given that passenger planes like a Boeing 777 or Airbus A380 hold tremendous amounts of fuel. However, since no plane has ever taxied until it has run out of fuel, I ask this question from a theoretical standpoint. I certainly wouldn't want to be on a plane taxiing the entire route from Los Angeles to New York!

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    $\begingroup$ If you ever land on one particular runway at Amsterdam Schipol you'd be forgiven for thinking they must have loaded more fuel just for the taxi to the ramp! $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Jun 22 '16 at 7:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Jamiec I always joke we must've landed at Rotterdam/The Hague airport by mistake when that happens - it's a 20 minute taxi at least! (which is half the time it takes to get from EHAM to EHRD by car) $\endgroup$ – yatima2975 Jun 22 '16 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ I've spent more time taxiing around ORD than it took to fly there from GRB. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Jun 22 '16 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Jamiec They do load more fuel. There's always a taxi allowance in fuel calculations $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Jun 22 '16 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ @TomMcW Taxi fuel is for taxi out, not in. So it"s spent before take-off. There is no fuel calculation for taxi after landing. $\endgroup$ – Sami Jun 22 '16 at 21:50

The number will vary depending on the aircraft type & installed engines (how much fuel it holds, and how much fuel it burns per hour at taxi speed), but the ballpark figure is "Much less than the range in flight", because the specific fuel consumption figures (how much power, and thus distance, you get per unit of fuel burned) are less favorable during taxi than at cruise.

To work an example I used the numbers for an A320 taken from here and not checked it burns 270-330kg/hr (depending on the engines installed) so let's split the difference and say 300kg/hr as an average.

The A320 can hold around 15,000kg of fuel, so doing the division it could run its engines at taxi power for around 45 hours.

If we assume a taxi speed of 20kts for 45 hours the aircraft could theoretically taxi 900 nautical miles (1036 statute miles, or 1667km), a little less than one-third of the range in flight.

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    $\begingroup$ That would need several crews ;-) Would parts of the aircraft bear this long taxi (e.g. tires)? $\endgroup$ – mins Jun 22 '16 at 7:08
  • $\begingroup$ You'd be hard pressed to find roads suitable for going a thousand miles without hitting something, as well! Maybe in Australia... $\endgroup$ – Andrew Jun 22 '16 at 11:11
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    $\begingroup$ And I would taxi 500 miles and I would taxi 500 more just to be the man who'd taxi 1000 miles to park outside your door. $\endgroup$ – Mike Clark Jun 22 '16 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ @mins That is a good question: 45 hours is probably shorter than the landing gear service intervals (tires, bearings, breaks, etc.), and while these aren't "continuous duty" items the loads imposed by taxiing are probably lower than the takeoff/landing loads, so I would imagine the gear can handle it, but I'm not sure how it all works out for continuous loads... $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Jun 22 '16 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ You do not need a pilot to taxi, a technician can to this (assuming without intention to fly). $\endgroup$ – h22 Jun 22 '16 at 19:43

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