Flying over remote areas

One of the air transportation's problems concerns the flights above remote areas, like deserts or oceans. These areas can be extremely vast and it is impossible to land there in case of a flight interruption because no appropriate airport can be found.

In the beginning, routes were made so that aircrafts wouldn't fly more than 60 minutes (considering the one engine out cruise speed) away from a suitable airport. This was a safe solution but implied pretty inefficient routes, which were very far from direct.

A first solution was integrated in aircrafts themselves, and some were equipped with three or four jet engines. For these airplanes, the loss of one engine became a less important problem and more direct routes could be used. But the 60 minutes rule still applied to 2-engines aircrafts, still unable to take economical routes.

Today, technological improvements allowed the aviation industry to reach excellent reliability and performance: engines break down with very small probability and 2-engine planes can fly almost normally with one engine out. Thanks to that, interesting routes can be used, thus allowing huge benefits in flight time, burnt fuel and of course CO2 rejected in the atmosphere.
This special use of twin-engine aircrafts is ruled by the ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operation Performance Standards) standards. An ETOPS approbation works for one air carrier for a given aircraft type equipped with a give type of engine. This way, the conception of aircraft and engines, their maintenance and the tracking realised by the airline are certified to fly further than the 60 minutes limitation.

Flying above SiberiaFor instance, Air France's Boeing 777 and their General Electrics GE90 engines use the ETOPS 180 approbation, allowing them to fly up to 180 minutes away (at the one engine out speed) from an airport where a suitable landing can be performed.
This standard allows the airline to use direct routes between France and Asia, flying over Siberia as it was the case when I took this picture.

For a private pilot flying a one engine aircraft, the ETOPS concept doesn't exist: in case of an engine failure we just have to choose a field.

Paris - Hong-Kong, 10h50.

->More details in the Wikipedia article concerning ETOPS standards


Evan J said...

great photo in that post, and I would still be very worried about flying over remote areas these days

François said...

Thanks for your comment, but really you don't need to be worried about these areas ;)

subalin said...

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lollipoopmonster said...

this is the beauty you'd get when you hire a private jet! :)