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ETOPS Rule Changes

Authorization. Revised regulation 14 CFR 121.161 codifies ETOPS and provides updated requirements for the authorization of extended operations. For twinjets, ETOPS applies when the airplane is more than 60 minutes from an airport. For three- and four-engine passenger airplanes, it applies when the airplane is more than 180 minutes from an airport.

Operators flying three- and four-engine extended passenger operations have a one-year compliance grace period ending February 15, 2008. Three- and four-engine freighters are exempted from the new ETOPS rule.

This regulation also codifies a polar policy formalizing requirements for operators whose planned airplane routes traverse the North and South Polar areas. Within these areas, this non-ETOPS policy applies at all times to all airplanes, whether passenger or cargo, regardless of actual diversion time or number of engines.

Cargo fire suppression and other time-limited systems. New regulation 14 CFR 121.633 maintains current standards for up to 180 minutes ETOPS authority. It requires that ETOPS diversion times shall not exceed the time limit, minus 15 minutes, for that airplane type's most time-limited system, which typically is cargo fire suppression.

Beyond 180 minutes,* this rule requires that diversions for cargo fire suppression be calculated at all-engines-operating cruise speed, corrected for wind and temperature, and that diversions for other time-limited ETOPS significant systems be calculated at one-engine-inoperative cruise speed, corrected for wind and temperature. A six-year compliance grace period is provided to bring existing three- and four-engine fleets into compliance for cargo fire suppression.

Communications. New regulations 14 CFR 121.99 and 121.122 require satellite communication (SATCOM) voice communications for all extended operations beyond 180 minutes; another form of communications must also be available in areas where communication is not possible using this technology. A one-year grace period is provided.

Definitions. New regulation 14 CFR 121.7 provides definitions of ETOPS-applicable terms to help ensure proper understanding and compliance.

Design requirements. Regulations governing transport-category airplane (Part 25) and engine design (Part 33) are revised to incorporate ETOPS enhancements that reduce the rate of airplane diversions and protect airplanes if they do divert. For beyond-180-minute ETOPS, new design requirements apply to ETOPS twinjets and three- and four-engine airplanes. Manufacturers have eight years to comply in currently produced three- and four-engine airplanes if these types remain in production past February 17, 2015.

Dispatch. Revised regulation 14 CFR 121.631 specifies ETOPS dispatch or flight-release requirements for weather conditions at ETOPS alternate airports; it also codifies the current requirement that weather information be updated at the start of the ETOPS phase of flight to verify the continuing availability of alternate airports.

Fuel reserve. New regulation 14 CFR 121.646 specifies the amount of reserve fuel to be carried to protect the airplane in the event of a cabin depressurization followed by an extended diversion, at low altitude where fuel consumption is increased, to an alternate airport. Fuel reserve planning assumes this event happens at the most critical point on the flight route.

Maintenance. New regulation 14 CFR 121.374 codifies current ETOPS maintenance practices and applies them to two-engine extended operations. Three- and four-engine passenger planes that fly ETOPS are exempted.

Passenger recovery plan. Revised regulation 14 CFR 121.135 requires all flights on extended routes with diversion times beyond 180 minutes — except those involving three- and four-engine freighters, which are exempted from ETOPS — to prepare a recovery plan for these routes that ensures the well-being of passengers stranded at diversion airports and provides for their safe retrieval without undue delay.

Passenger recovery plans are also required for all polar passenger operations. Moreover, all polar operations and beyond-180-minute ETOPS must comply with the public protection provisions in airport data regulation 14 CFR 121.97.

Performance data. Revised regulation 14 CFR 121.135 requires all ETOPS operators to have the applicable performance data available to support their extended operations.

Rescue and firefighting. Revised regulation 14 CFR 121.106 requires rescue and firefighting equipment to be available at any airport designated as an ETOPS alternate.

Training. Revised regulation 14 CFR 121.415 requires training for crew members and dispatchers for their specific roles and responsibilities in creating and implementing their operator's passenger recovery plans.

Type design. New regulation 14 CFR 121.162 establishes the basis for ETOPS airplane type-design approvals.

*Note that 207-minute ETOPS does not count as "beyond 180 minutes" — the threshold at which most of the new ETOPS requirements apply — because it is a 15 percent operational extension to, and subject to the requirements of, traditional 180-minute ETOPS authority.

Non-ETOPS Provisions Included in This Rulemaking

Polar policy. Regulation 14 CFR 121.161, which authorizes ETOPS, also formalizes requirements for operations north of latitude 78N (North Pole) and south of latitude 60S (South Pole). Within these regions, this FAA polar policy applies at all times to all airplanes regardless of actual diversion time or number of engines.

Three- and four-engine airplane fuel reserve. The ETOPS en route fuel supply regulation includes 14 CFR 121.646(a), a general provision that states three- and four-engine airplanes, when flying more than 90 minutes from an airport, shall carry sufficient fuel to safely reach an adequate airport in the event of decompression and diversion at low altitude where fuel consumption is increased.

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