Cancel Preloader

Five Executive Aircraft That Are Popular For Use On Unpaved Runways

In addition to the flexibility and convenience private jet travel offers, they also provide easy access to remote airports and airfields that are outside the reach of commercial jets. While private jet use is significantly high among corporate executives, it is rapidly growing in parts of the world where access to remote locations is necessary. When aircraft have the ability to take off from and land at unconventional strips and airfields, it makes the journey even more desirable for those who need it.

Many parts of the world that can benefit from air travel are covered with land that has restricted conditions. From levies and grass to dirt and gravel, such lands make air travel extremely difficult. Grassy dirt tracks and long gravel strips are typical on farmlands, in villages, and plenty of ancient tourist destinations worldwide.

While such areas have historically been accessed through boats, jeeps, and trucks, newer, more advanced aircraft have enabled air travel in such conditions. Private jets equipped with landing gears to land and take off from unpaved airstrips safely provide a faster and more reliable way to access remote areas. This article explores some of the most common executive aircraft capable of operating from unconventional runways.

1 Cessna C208 Caravan and Grand Caravan

The Cessna C208 is one of the most versatile private and executive travel aircraft. It is a multi-mission aircraft that can be configured according to the customer’s needs. The aircraft has a fixed tricycle landing gear in its base configuration. However, the manufacturer offers a variety of adaptations that enable the gear to be operated on various unconventional runways and airstrips.

An Azul Conecta Cessna Grand Caravan parked at an airfield.

Photo: Azul.

Specialized gear reinforcements allow for operations on surfaces with grass, dirt, or gravel. The Caravan Amphibian model can be fitted with pontoons (or floats) for water operations. Similarly, the aircraft also offers landing gear ski adapters for operation in Arctic environments.

Apart from gear adaptations, the aircraft is able to take off with 1,400 ft (426 m) of runway, and only 1,005 ft (306 m) is required for a safe landing. The Cessna Caravan and Grand Caravan are popular choices for skydiving excursions. The aircraft can be retrofitted with a rolling door, allowing greater accessibility for parachute operations. More than 2,500 examples operate worldwide, serving various passenger, cargo, and other specialized operations.

2 Beechcraft King Air B250

The Beechcraft King Air B250 is a twin-engine turboprop with state-of-the-art navigation equipment. The aircraft has a rugged landing gear suitable for most unpaved runways. Powered by two Pratt & Whitney PTA-52 engines, the B250 requires 2,110 ft (643) meters to take off from an unpaved runway, with its maximum takeoff weight. The aircraft only requires 1,815 ft (533 m) to land on most unconventional runways.

A Beechcraft King Air taxiing to the runway.

Photo: LifeMed Alaska

The manufacturer claims that the turboprop has been proven on rough airstrips worldwide during flight tests and operations with customers globally. The aircraft is a popular choice in South America, where it is primarily used in remote land locations. The aircraft is used on farmlands and in remote villages for accessibility. Most travel companies in Brazil use the King Air 250 and 350 models to transport tourist groups to popular destinations. The King Air 250 has an operating range of 1,700 NM (3,150 km), enough to fly from London to Istanbul non-stop.

3 Piper Cheyenne

The Piper Cheyenne is another popular aircraft when it comes to short takeoffs and landings from almost any type of (paved and unpaved) runway out there. The aircraft requires approximately 2,625 ft (800 m) of distance to safely land and take off, with its maximum takeoff weight. The aircraft stands out from the competition because of its greater operating speed and service ceiling. The aircraft is capable of flying at 450 km/h at up to 31,000 ft (9,450 m).

A Piper Cheyenne taxiing to the runway.

That makes it ideal for various medical and humanitarian missions, apart from general aviation services. The aircraft is prominently used as air taxis and on medical transport missions, particularly in remote locations worldwide. Powered by two Pratt & Whitney PT6 engines, the aircraft can fly a range of nearly 1,500 NM (2,800 km). The rugged landing gears with absorbable reinforcement allow smooth landings on unconventional airstrips. The aircraft can comfortably seat six passengers.

4 Pilatus PC-24

It is a state-of-the-art aircraft with unique capabilities and numerous cabin configurations to meet customer requirements. The aircraft can take off and land on very rough tracks, increasing its accessibility to thousands of airports worldwide. The aircraft is equipped with a long-stroke trailing link gear that aids in smoothing uneven surfaces during operation. The link also prevents the aircraft from sinking into soft surfaces, including mud and snow. The aircraft requires under 3,000 ft (900 m) of runway for takeoff and landing. According to Pilatus,

“There are around 10,650 airports in the world that you can access with an aircraft able to operate on runways with a length of 3,130 feet (954 m). There are an additional 880 airports that become available when your aircraft needs only 2,930 feet (893 m).”

A Pilatus-PC-24 during a Runway Water Test.


With the ability to operate on unpaved runways, too, more than 20,000 airports and airfields are accessible by flying the Pilatus PC-24. The aircraft can comfortably seat nine passengers.

5 Boeing 737-200

The Boeing 737-200 is the extended version of the original Boeing 737-100, and it entered service in 1968 with United Airlines. While these jets are no longer in scheduled passenger service (phased out in 2008), many North American charter operators fly the type. The 737-200 has unique short-field capabilities that enable it to take off and land at short runways. Moreover, Boeing also offers the landing gear modification kit, which enables the aircraft to operate on unpaved runways, including those with gravel or dirt.

A Boeing 737 flying in the sky.

The kit includes a nose-gear gravel deflector that prevents the gravel from damaging the underside upon landing. The kit also provides wings, flaps, and fuselage reinforcements. Alaska Airlines used the 737-200 Combi for its services to several destinations with unpaved runways until 2007. The 737-200s fitted with the gravel kit are still utilized by several Canadian charter services, including Canadian North, Nolinor Aviation, and Chrono Aviation.

What are your thoughts on the list of popular aircraft used for operations on unconventional runways? Tell us in the comments section.


Related post