ETOPS approvals

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The Airbus A330-900 is now cleared for operations beyond 180 minutes’ flying time from the nearest diversion airport, with airlines able to opt for up to 235 minutes, if desired.
S Ramadier/Airbus

Two new Airbus airliners have gained extended operations (ETOPS) approvals recently. The A330-900 was cleared by the European Aviation Safety Agency for beyond 180 minutes ETOPS and the A220 was permitted for up to 180-minute ETOPS.

ETOPS was introduced by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in the 1980s to allow twin-engine commercial aircraft operations on routes beyond 60 minutes’ flying time from the nearest airport, previously operated only by aircraft with more than two engines. ICAO has over time revised these regulations, now formally called EDTO (Extended Diversion Time Operations), to enable airlines to operate certified aircraft up to or beyond 180 minutes’ flying time from the nearest diversion airport.

The A330-900 was certified with up to 180 minutes’ ETOPS. The beyond 180 minutes’ clearance means operators will be able to traverse straighter and theoretically quicker and more fuel-efficient paths, while accessing more en route diversion airports if needed.

The approval also includes an option to extend ETOPS up to 285 minutes, which Airbus said extends the potential diversion distance for the A330-900 to around 2,000 nautical miles (3,704km) and enables airlines to serve new direct “nonlimiting” routings.

Airbus said the US Federal Aviation Administration’s respective ETOPS beyond 180 minutes’ certification for the A330-900 is expected soon. The previous-generation A330 models, the A330-200 and A330- 300, received ETOPS beyond 180 clearance back in 2009.

Meanwhile, the ETOPS clearance for the A220 family enables customers to operate the A220-100 and A220-300 at up to 180 minutes’ flying time from the nearest diversion airport. This is significant for the A220, because a key aspect of the aircraft’s business case is that its technologies and performance enable it to fly thin long-range intercontinental routes efficiently that were previously unprofitable or impossible to operate with aircraft in the 100-160 seats size class.

The ETOPS 180 approval means the A220 operators can now do just that. With the jet permitted to fly direct non-limiting routes over water, it can serve routes such as London–New York, Los Angeles– Honolulu and Seoul–Darwin, which opens potential network expansion opportunities for current and future operators.