Since Ben Gurion International Airport is closed, flights are being directed to Ovda, with a 3000 meter / 9,843 foot runway. Can large passenger jets, such as the Boeing 747, land at such an airport?

I understand that a 747 at MTW needs about 10000 feet to land safely, but it can be done in a pinch at 6000-7000 feet. Would a commercial airliner fly flights to a temporary airport such as Ovda considering the shorter runway (i.e. not emergency conditions)?

Also, if I may ask, in the linked thread a 747 pilot refers to the 747 as "a gigantic replica of the North American F-86". To what might he have been referring?

  • $\begingroup$ Landing is not usually the issue, however it might be a bit short for takeoff when fully loaded. I'll check up some of the documents I have and check. $\endgroup$ Jul 23 '14 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Qantas94Heavy, factor in a density altitude of 4300ft. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Jul 23 '14 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ Re F-86: It probably means one random person in the intertubes has the same irrational emotional attachment to two different hunks of metal. i.e. Concorde is exactly like an El-Casco stapler ;-) $\endgroup$ Jul 23 '14 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ A 747 at MTW (assume you mean max takeoff weight) cannot land. The max landing weight is far less than the max takeoff weight. Also, landing distance is always shorter than takeoff. $\endgroup$
    – Steve Kuo
    Jul 25 '14 at 6:06
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    $\begingroup$ @SteveKuo Any heavier-than-air craft can always land. It might not be able to land safely, but it can always land (this actually does matter sometimes -- in an emergency, you might need to land higher than max landing weight). $\endgroup$
    – cpast
    Apr 6 '15 at 19:27

So, given Terry's remarks, GdD pointing out that the density altitude for Ovda is around 4300', and the current B744 Airport Planning Document, we can use the unadjusted (there's also a temperature adjusted version, but you don't need that when you have a density altitude in hand) T/O distance chart for the appropriate engine type (I'm going to use the CF6 version for example's sake) to compute how heavy a 747 out of Ovda can be. (The chart you need is on page 72 on the PDF, by the way.)

Looking across the chart at the 10,000' line gets you an intersection with the 4000' altitude curve about halfway between 750,000 and 800,000 lbs; let us call this 775,000 lbs for argument's sake. Since we have a slightly shorter runway and a somewhat higher DA, 760,000 lbs is a reasonable MTOW for a 744 out of Ovda; if you wished to be extra conservative, you could cap your MTOW at 750,000 lbs.

As per PDF page 15 of that same document, the typical operating empty weight of a B744 is about 394,000 pounds. Adding the 120,000 pounds of passengers Terry quoted onto this leaves you with 236,000 lbs of fuel minimum, which is more than enough to get to anywhere in Europe with fuel to spare. If you want figures, you can use the payload/range charts on PDF page 55 to get a max range of 4200 miles, which as per the great-circle mapper is enough to get you to anywhere in Europe or Africa, as well as the Indian subcontinent and much of SE Asia and China.

As to the landing half of it, the landing distance charts on PDF pages 94 and 95 can be used, assuming a wet runway, a 4300' density altitude for Ovda, the passenger configuration MLW of 630,000lbs, and the ability to use Flaps 30 (Flaps 25 yields a longer landing distance) we get a runway length of around 8700'; this'd be somewhat tight (you'd want to use max autobrakes and your reversers, and make sure you came over the fence at Vref with a firm touchdown to avoid floating in ground effect), but passenger flights don't land at MLW very often, so it'd be a workable operation.

  • $\begingroup$ As a sidenote -- if you're in a B744, you can make it basically anywhere you wish in the world from Ovda with a single fuel stop, so it's not as bad as it sounds. I actually worked it out with the great-circle mapper; the fuel stops I picked are Keflavik, Iceland for N. America, U-Tapao, Thailand for SEA/JP/AUS, and Beja, Portugal for S. America, btw. $\endgroup$ Sep 9 '15 at 22:36

I landed there back from Heathrow in 1994 on an El Al Boeing 747-200 and departed on same a week later. Can't say if a 400 series would get in and out but I don't see why not.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, thank you! $\endgroup$
    – dotancohen
    Apr 6 '15 at 18:45

747 AIRPORT PLANNING DOCUMENT - Boeing seems relevant but I don't understand it :-(

It has charts like this (assuming you want to be able to take off again sometime in the future - otherwise you might run out of 747s quite quickly)

enter image description here

I think there's a landing equivalent if you need to know how much, ... erm ... cargo, to jettison.

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    $\begingroup$ Hmm, well let's assume 800,000 lbs takeoff weight, and let's assume that GgD was correct with 4,300 pressure altitude. This hypothetical 747 would need approximately 12,500 feet of runway, with no air conditioning, 20 deg flaps and no wind/level runway. With no other considerations, nope, no 747's for Ovda. $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Jul 23 '14 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ My interpretation of this would be that it would take 11000 feet at 800,000 lbs, still out of limits for takeoff. Landing is probably less. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Jul 23 '14 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ Another way to look at it that they are limited to about 760,000 lb takeoff weight. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Jul 23 '14 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell in planning you typically go the other way. I have X runway and am at Y ft altitude, figure out your max takeoff weight (and consider other limits like ZFW) and determine how much fuel, pax and cargo you can take. If limited you can always limit the number of pax or just take everyone and plan a fuel stop. $\endgroup$
    – casey
    Jul 23 '14 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ @GdD If you figure 380,000 for the empty airplane and 120,000 for full passengers, that would leave you with 260,000 for fuel, which would get you to anyplace in Europe. $\endgroup$
    – Terry
    Jul 23 '14 at 16:20

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