It was well known for a long time that the shortest passenger flight used to be from the Scottish mainland to the Shetland Isles. A short distance with a flight taking a few minutes. Now,
it seems we’ve got the shortest cargo flight which instead of being operated by a small propeller aircraft as is the case in Scotland, this one is with a heavy Boeing 777
QR8173 short flights
Normally Qatar Airways freighter flight QR8173 which is operated with one of the carrier’s B777Fs, flies directly from Doha to Liege and then onto Mexico City as a scheduled Sunday operation. This pattern has changed for a couple of weeks resulting in a bizarre route change which entails operating from Doha to Maastricht and then making a 24-mile, 9 minute hop from Maastricht to Liege, before going onto Mexico.
The reason is quite simple - Worldtech Nederland, a Dutch e-commerce company has contracted Qatar Cargo to operate 21 flights for them. The charterer has stipulated that four of these operate directly from Doha to Maastricht (MST) and not that the cargo be trucked from Liege back to MST. Reports now state that it may well only be a total of two flights. The first one was flown on Sunday 3. November and the second was planned for yesterday (10 November).
The runway in MST has always been a problem for heavy aircraft, especially freighters which operate there. Total length is 2,750 metres, of which until recently only 2,500 metres were allocated for the takeoff run (CFG reported). In the meantime, the remaining 250 metres can be used, but are still not enough for a safe heavy freighter takeoff. Therefore, Qatar Cargo is forced to position from MST to LGG after apparently also loading cargo in MST. From LGG the aircraft is fully tanked and extra cargo loaded for the non-stop LGG/MEX flight.
Dutch and Belgian parliaments question the need
Some Dutch and Belgian parliamentarians have made quite a fuss in their respective houses, questioning the need for such a short operation between both airports. In the Netherlands the Dutch Minister of Transport (Infrastructuur en Waterstaat), Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, has been questioned by members of the D66 and Christen Unie parties on why traffic rights were granted at all seeing that it would have been cheaper and just as quick when the MST destined cargo had been offloaded and trucked from LGG.
The total block-to-block flight time for the rotation DOH-MST-LGG-MEX is recorded as being 17:75 hours - of which 0.09 hours were on the now famous MST-LGG leg.
By the way - road distance between Maastricht and Liege is around 22 miles with a driving time of 20 - 25 minutes
The “gear up, look-around, gear down” nine-minute flight now probably goes on record as the shortest heavy freighter flight.
Liege reports a bumper October
The airport management reports that during the month of October a total of 84,000 tons of air cargo passed through the airport. This, they say, is the best month for air cargo tonnage in the airport’s history. For the first ten months of this year Liege can report volumes of 730,000 tons and this could well reach 900,000 tons by year end if the peak months of November and December show the same results. Imports made up 51% of the total volume in October.
Maastricht Airport, although not as successful as Liege as far as tonnages go, is despite its runway restriction gradually increasing their air cargo turnover. In 2018 a total of 125,000 tons passed through the airport. This was 44% more than the previous year.
Let’s see what 2019 turns out like.
John Mc Donagh
Footnote: We always welcome your comments to our articles. However, we can only publish them when the sender name is authentic