On Monday the FAA announced that all commercial passenger airplanes, no matter how many engines, will operate under the same standards. It’s part of the agency’s release of a new Extended Twin Operations (ETOPS) rule governing long-range flights over remote areas of ocean and deserted lands, such as polar regions and deserts.
It sounds technical, but it’s actually good news for the traveling public, which I’ll explain in a moment.
This all goes back to a discussion we had previously here in the blog regarding extended operations flights. As I noted before, we have a lot of years of data and flight records showing that twin-engine airplanes are more efficient, more economical, and more reliable than three- or four-engine airplanes.
And part of the interesting news I get out of this announcement is that the rules under which airlines have been operating long-range twin-engine passenger airplanes have been so effective that the FAA has decided it makes sense for three- and four-engine jetliners to have the same operational standards.
The new rules are based on the proven track record that we’ve been working on for decades. We’ve always believed that what matters is the total reliability of the whole airplane system, not the number of engines an airplane has.
The ruling allows for the certification of long-range 777s and the 787 Dreamliner to operate on virtually any route in the world in the most efficient manner possible. And of course, extending the operating capabilities of twin-engine airplanes allows for more direct routing, and opens up more choices for airlines in terms of size and type of airplanes on long-range routes.
Twin-engine airplanes are, by definition, more efficient, weigh less, and have fewer emissions than similar sized airplanes with three and four engines. For example, the A340-600 consumes over 20% more fuel compared with the 777-300ER. Higher fuel consumption generates higher emissions.
But really, this is a victory for the traveling public. Twins on more routes will mean lower operating costs - which should mean lower fares. And it will help travelers get where they want to go with more flights to more destinations with more direct routing, and fewer connections and delays.
It should make the whole system more efficient, more reliable, and overall more convenient for passengers.