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Boeing’s 777 allowed to fly more than five hours from nearest airport

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Dec. 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
December 12, 2011 3:33 pm

If you’re flying over vast reaches of ocean or endless tracts of ice, you’d like to know that your plane could reach the nearest airport if one of your aircraft’s two engines fails.

Now the Federal Aviation Administration says it’s confident that Boeing extended range 777 aircraft can fly as far as five and a half hours from the nearest airport without endangering its passengers if half its propulsion should quit in flight.

The FAA today said it now approves of 777 operations that take the plane that far from a safe haven on routine flights.

That approval for so-called ETOPS (extended range operations) for Boeing’s 777-300ER, 777-200LR, 777-200ER and 777 Freighter with General Electric engines will benefit both the passenger and the airlines.

That 330-minute ETOPS approval will allow airlines to fly straighter and shorter courses over unpopulated areas to reach their destinations. That means shorter flight times for passengers and less fuel consumption for airlines.

Using less fuel will also mean a smaller carbon footprint for airlines.

“Boeing twin-engine jets have flown more than seven million ETOPS flights since 1985, and more than 120 Boeing operators fly more than 50,000 ETOPS flights each month,” said Larry Loftis, vice president and general manager of the 777 program. “This is the logical continuation of the Boeing philosophy of point-to-point service. Passengers want to minimize their overall travel time. This is one more step in that direction.”

ETOPS aircraft are equipped with redudant equipment that allows them to remain fully functional if a critical component fails a long way from the nearest airport.

Such reliability has made extended range flights routine even for what used to be considered short range airliners. The original 737-100, which entered commercial service in 1968, had a maximum range of 1,750 miles. The newest 737-700 can travel more than 3,600 miles non-stop.

Alaska Airlines, for instance, flies from the mainland to Hawaii multiple times daily with its twin-engine 737 equipped with ETOPS equipment.

Boeing 757s are frequently used to cross the Atlantic.

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