Download This Article (PDF - 1.1 MB)

Maintenance. New regulation 14 CFR 121.374 codifies the current ETOPS maintenance practices. These proven practices reduce airplane-related diversions through disciplined procedures like engine condition monitoring, oil consumption monitoring, aggressive resolution of identified reliability issues, and procedures that avoid human error during the maintenance of airplane engines and systems.

The new ETOPS rule makes ETOPS maintenance requirements applicable only to two-engine airplanes that fly extended operations. Because unscheduled landings at alternate airports can be costly and disruptive events for carriers, some three- and four-engine operators have voluntarily raised their maintenance standards to ETOPS levels even though it is not required of them.

Passenger recovery plan. Revised regulation 14 CFR 121.135 requires that for all ETOPS flying beyond 180 minutes (excluding 207-minute ETOPS, as explained above), and for all polar operations, the air carrier must develop a plan to ensure the well-being of passengers and crew members at each approved en route alternate airport listed in this carrier's operations specifications. Because challenging alternate airports tend to be found in the most remote parts of the world, passenger recovery plans are no longer required for ETOPS below 180 minutes.

This passenger recovery plan must address the safety and comfort, in terms of facilities and accommodations, of stranded passengers at the diversion airport. As its name suggests, it must also address their prompt retrieval from the airport.

Polar operations also require passenger recovery plans, as codified in this rulemaking's polar policy. Initially implemented as an FAA policy letter in 2001, this polar policy also requires diversion airport planning, another key ETOPS concept. Despite these similarities, however, polar operations are distinct from ETOPS because North and South Polar operations entail unique requirements, such as special onboard equipment and a fuel freeze strategy.

Performance data. Revised regulation 14 CFR 121.135 also requires the operator to provide its flight crews and dispatchers with airplane performance data to support all phases of extended operations. This data must describe the specific performance of the airplane in normal and non-normal situations, including those that might arise during an extended-duration diversion to an alternate airport.

Rescue and firefighting service (RFFS). During more than two decades of ETOPS and more than 5.5 million ETOPS twinjet flights around the world, there has never been a landing accident following an extended diversion from the ETOPS phase of flight. However, the fact that RFFS has not been needed in the past does not lessen the importance of this ETOPS operational protection.

New regulation 14 CFR 121.106 formalizes RFFS requirements for alternate airports. For ETOPS up to 180 minutes, each airport listed on the dispatch or flight release as an ETOPS alternate airport must have RFFS capability equivalent to or higher than International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Category 4.3

For ETOPS beyond 180 minutes, ICAO Category 4 is required with at least one adequate airport within the authorized diversion time having ICAO Category 7. This provision allows for optimum route planning while providing the flight crew with available alternate airport options in the event a situation arises requiring a higher RFFS capability.

The regulation also makes provision for dispatching even if an otherwise adequate alternate airport lacks sufficient RFFS, provided that local firefighting assets — given 30 minutes notice while the diversion is in progress — can be available to bring the airfield's capability up to the required ICAO standard. There must be a commitment that this supplemental RFFS will be available at arrival and that it will remain at the scene for as long as needed by the diverting airplane.

Training. Revised regulation 14 CFR 121.415 has been modified to require training for crew members and dispatchers for their specific roles and responsibilities in creating and implementing the operator's passenger recovery plans for the alternate airports upon which it relies for its extended operations.

Type design. New regulation 14 CFR 121.162 establishes the basis for ETOPS type-design approvals. This regulation delineates the airworthiness standards required for airplanes to be used in Part 121 ETOPS and it confirms that current ETOPS-qualified operators can continue operating their ETOPS routes without a new approval process.

This new ETOPS rule's remaining regulatory additions or modifications formalize the requirements for weather minimums at these alternate airports (14 CFR 121.625), ETOPS dispatch or flight release (14 CFR 121.631, 121.687, 121.689), and ETOPS alternate airports (14 CFR 121.624). General regulation 14 CFR 121.97, which describes what airport information all operators are to be cognizant of, also applies to the alternate airports on which ETOPS and polar area operations depend. The FAA has also updated existing regulation on flight procedures following in-flight engine failure or shutdown (14 CFR 121.565)

Download This Article (PDF - 1.1 MB)