Flight Times by Piston and Jet Engines from New York

Flight Times by Piston and Jet Engines from New York

Note: Assume constant travel time and does not take account of prevailing winds and technical stops (refueling, crew change).

The commercial jet engine, introduced at the end of the 1950s, revolutionized international air transportation. With a piston engine, an airplane leaving New York can service North American destinations within 10 hours. Europe and the bulk of South America can be reached within 15-24 hours (with refueling stops), while East Asia is still at least 40 hours away through multiple stops.

With a jet engine, a plane leaving New York reaches Europe and the bulk of South America within 10 hours and East Asia within 17 hours (with refueling stops before the introduction of very long-range aircraft in the 1990s). Every part of the world can be serviced in less than 24 hours. Jet aircraft were not only much faster (about twice as much) but also produced much less cabin vibration and were far easier to maintain than the last generation of piston engines.

Even if jet planes are much faster than propeller planes, they are still actively used for transport services for the following reasons:

  • Capital cost. Due to simpler technology, a propeller plane is cheaper to acquire and maintain than a jet plane of similar capacity.
  • Fuel efficiency. A propeller plane is much more fuel-efficient on a per passenger seat basis, which makes them profitable to use for short-haul flights.
  • Limited time advantage for short hauls. For hauls of less than 2 hours, air traffic delays can remove the speed advantage of jet planes.
  • Shorter runways. Propeller planes require less runway length for takeoffs, meaning that they can be used in a wider range of smaller airports that can be less expensive to use, closer to markets and in remote areas.