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The Airbus A350XWB Is Now Cleared To Go Far(ther)

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has approved the Airbus A350XWB for extended-range operations, making it the first new airliner ever to be approved before Entry Into Service (EIS) for “ETOPS Beyond 180 minutes”

The approval includes an option for up to 370 minute maximum diversion time, resulting in the most efficient, reliable and direct long-range routing of any two-engined aircraft, the aircraft manufacturer indicates.

Airbus expects the FAA’s respective ETOPS certification of the A350 soon.

The approval includes ETOPS 180min in the basic specification, and provisions for ‘ETOPS 300min’ and ‘ETOPS 370min’, depending on individual operator choice. The latter option extends the diversion distance up to 2,500nm – a distance which corresponds to a maximum ETOPS diversion time for the A350 of approximately 370 minutes, at one-engine-inoperative speed under standard atmospheric conditions.

A350 operators can thus serve new direct non-limiting routings, compared with a 180 minute ETOPS diversion time: The ETOPS 370min option is particularly beneficial for new direct southern routes such as between Australia, South Africa and South America.  The ETOPS 300min option will make transoceanic routes more efficient across the North and Mid-Pacific – such as from South East Asia to US, and Australasia to the US. Operators flying on routes with up to 180 minute diversion time can traverse a straighter, quicker and more fuel-efficient path, and have access to more en-route diversion airports, if needed.

Airbus attributes the regulatory authorities’ granting of this ETOPS for the A350 to the aircraft’s design and systems maturity, which had to be shown to be equal to that of a proven ETOPS aircraft, such as its wide body sibling–the A330. The A330 was already proven robust in over 30 million flight hours and almost seven million flights.

The A350XWB is Airbus’ new mid-size long-range product line and the latest member of Airbus’ widebody family. The aircraft features a number of passenger experience enhancing features, operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Around 70 percent of A350 flight hours will be ETOPS.

So what is this ETOPS thing and why does it matter?

A350 ETOPS Infographic/Airbus
A350 ETOPS Infographic/Airbus

As the manufacturer explains:

“ETOPS” is a set of rules initially introduced by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in the mid-1980s to allow commercial operations with twin-engine aircraft on routes beyond 60min flying time from the nearest airport and which were previously operated only by aircraft with more than two engines. These rules, which are now named “EDTO” (Extended Diversion Time Operations) by ICAO have been progressively revised to allow operations beyond 180min diversion time. In 2009, the Airbus A330 became the first airliner to gain an ETOPS ‘Beyond 180min’ certification, when it was granted an ETOPS 240min certification by EASA. As of today, Airbus twin-engined airliners have accumulated over 16 million ETOPS flight hours, out of which over 12 million have been accumulated by the A330 models.

Extended diversion time allows airlines to better adjust to changing flight paths.  Under number operations this means more flexibility in planning routes, using fuel more efficiently and thus saving airlines money.  There is also a significant safety and security benefit.  Aircraft in trouble have a wider range of options to re-route for an unscheduled stop, and airlines are better able to adjust flight paths to respond to NOTAMs and any similar security notices requiring unforeseen changes to the route.

With the number of hot zones that airlines are trying to navigate around after the shooting-down of MH17, greater flexibility to take longer routes, without concern about exceeding the established limits of operations, is a significant benefit both to airlines and the traveling public.

The A350 XWB had won 750 orders from 39 customers worldwide by the end of September 2014.


Featured Image: A350XWB Formation Flight/Airbus

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