Fri, Dec 08, 2006
Adds More Than 30 Minutes To Distance From Emergency
The Bush administration is
set to enact a new rule governing twin-engine airliner operations.
When it does, aircraft such as Boeing's new 737-800 and -900 series
aircraft might soon be able to fly farther from emergency
Long-haul flights face unique dangers because of the distances
aircraft must fly to reach an emergency landing site. Early
intercontinental airliners such as Boeing's 707 and 747 were
equipped with four engines because engineers believed safety was
enhanced by redundancy.
As airliners with two engines became more popular -- mostly due
to their fuel efficiency -- a set of rules called Extended Twin
Engine Operations (ETOPS) was enacted to ensure the reduced
redundancy didn't impact safety.
Current ETOPS rules limit the distance airliners can fly away
from an emergency landing sites. That places restrictions on the
routes airlines can fly, sometimes adding to flight times and
Based on a 2003 proposal, the FAA wants to change the rule to
allow airliners with two engines to fly up to four hours away from
emergency landing sites. The maximum under current ETOPS is just
The FAA has issued waivers to the current rules for twenty years
and says the new rule would merely eliminate that formality. Around
30,000 flights per month fall under the current standard.
The rule change would allow airlines to save money by optimizing
routes and eliminating some of their older four-engine aircraft
kept around to fly routes out of ETOPS range for the twins.
FAA Administrator Marion Blakey says advances in engine
technology, communication and emergency procedures make it possible
to change the rule without compromising safety.
Blakey told Reuters, "I think you will see it puts an end to the
two engines versus four debate and it does make possible planning
for a high degree of reliability and safety."
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