The History of ETOPS

ETOPS is an aircraft certification; learn the history behind the certification and explore what’s covered in our online ETOPS training course.

What does ETOPS stand for?

ETOPS refers to an extended range twin operations approval permit that dictates the maximum distance (in flight time) that an aircraft can be from a suitable runway if needed in an emergency.

What’s the origin of ETOPS?

When the first commercial aircraft started crossing the Atlantic at the end of the 1930’s, it set the precedent for long passenger trips travelling large distances from the closest airport. Inevitably, as these distances increased, the likelihood of having a debilitating aircraft malfunction away from safety also increases. As piston engines were the standard power-units for these journeys, it wasn’t uncommon for a four-engine aircraft to touch down at its destination with only 3 still running – reliability was a significant issue.

For these reasons, in 1953, the US implemented the first regulations that would evolve into the ETOPS requirements that we know today. These initial rules restricted routes for aircraft with two or three engines to ensure that they complied with the ’60-minute rule’. As the name suggests, this required aircraft to always be within 60 minutes of flying time from the closest airport at all times (calculated with one working engine).

By 1964, these regulations had been removed for three-engine aircraft and by 1983, a new generation of engines meant a need for an overhaul of current safety requirements which would happen in 1985. As the introduction of high-bypass turbofan engines had increased the reliability of engines by more than 1000%, the latest ETOPS rules permitted operators to travel routes up to 120 minutes (one engine flight time) from an adequate landing site.

In 1988, after three years of successful implementation, this was expanded up to 180 minute ETOPS. In recent years, the introduction of airframes like the 777’s, 787 Dreamliners and A350’s has seen some certifications approved for ETOPS-330, meaning that almost every route can be planned out according to the shortest distance between points, irrespective of distance from an eligible runway.

What is covered in our extended-range twin-engine operations (ETOPS) training course?

On completion of our online aviation training courses, all students will be aware of the ETOPS regulations and how these impact working practices within the industry. The course topics include:

  • Introduction to ETOPS
  • History of ETOPS
  • Legislation harmonization
  • Approvals
  • Type design approval
  • Operations approval
  • ETOPS for maintenance

Upon completion of our ETOPS online training course, all students will have met the requirements of EASA AMC 20-6 rev.2 Effective: 23/12/2010 Annex II to ED Decision 2010/012/R of 16/12/2010 and FAA AC-120-42B – Extended Operations (ETOPS and Polar Operations)