Engines Turn or Passengers Swim: A Case Study of How ETOPS Improved Both Safety and Economics in Aviation
116 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2013 Last revised: 5 Dec 2013
Date Written: December 2013
Under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, no commercial airplane with fewer than three engines may fly a route that at any point exceeds 60 minutes flying time from a suitable airport. The industry calls this “the 60-minute rule.” ETOPS is the exception to that rule. By satisfying stringent ETOPS requirements, an airline may fly two-engine planes on “extended operation” routes exceeding 60 minutes. ETOPS has enormously influenced the aviation industry. This article traces the early history of ETOPS, including its creation and the evolution known as “early ETOPS.” In doing so, it identifies factors contributing to ETOPS’s success. The article then evaluates these factors in light of the nearly unprecedented grounding of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner following two serious battery failures. The author argues that the difficulties of the Boeing 787 warrant the application of ETOPS-like principles to the adoption of novel technology, such as lithium-ion batteries, for aviation.
Keywords: ETOPS, extended operations, FAA, aviation, 60-minute rule, regulation, case study
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