The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has approved the Airbus A350-900 airliner for ETOPS (Extended-range Twin engine aircraft Operations) ‘Beyond 180 minutes’ diversion time.
Not only does EASA’s approval include ETOPS 180min in the basic specification, but it also includes provisions for ‘ETOPS 300min’ and ‘ETOPS 370min’ depending on individual operator selection, according to Airbus.
According to Airbus, the latter option extends the diversion distance up to an unprecedented 2,500nm – a distance which corresponds to approximately a 370-minute maximum ETOPS diversion time for the Airbus A350-900, at one-engine-inoperative speed under standard atmospheric conditions.
A single-engine time of 370min is the highest ETOPS diversion time ever awarded. In the United States, the FAA (whose airworthiness standards and ratings are generally adopted by EASA, and vice versa) approved the Boeing 787 for a 330-minute ETOPS single-engine diversion time in May.
The EASA approval marks the A350 XWB as being the first new aircraft type ever to receive such a level of ETOPS approval prior to entry into service. Airbus expects soon to receive the FAA’s ETOPS certification rating for the A350-900.
According to Airbus, the 370min ETOPS certification means that operators will benefit from the most efficient, reliable and direct long-range routings of any two-engined aircraft.
Using 370min ETOPS certification, Airbus A350-900 operators will be able to serve new, direct, non-limiting routings, compared with a 180-minute ETOPS diversion time, according to Airbus.
According to the manufacturer, the ETOPS 370min option will be of particular benefit for new direct southern routes such as non-stop, transoceanic flights between Australia and South Africa and South America.
Meanwhile, the ETOPS 300min option will facilitate more efficient transoceanic routes across the North and Mid-Pacific – such as from Southeast Asia to the U.S., and Australasia to the U.S.
Operators flying on existing routes (currently flown with up to 180-minute ETOPS diversion times) will be able to traverse straighter and consequently quicker and more fuel-efficient paths, and will also have access to more – and possibly better equipped – en-route diversion airports if needed, according to Airbus.
EASA’s granting of a very high-time ETOPS capability prior to the A350-900’s entry into service (which will occur before the end of this year, when the first custromer aircraft is handed over to Qatar Airways) is a result of the A350 XWB development teams’ emphasis on securing the aircraft’s design and systems maturity, according to Airbus.
The manufacturer says the A350-900’s systems maturity had to be demonstrated as equivalent to that of a proven ETOPS aircraft such as its widebody sibling the Airbus A330 family. The latter has proven the robustness of its systems over more than 30 million flight hours accumulated in almost seven million flights.
Around 70 per cent of Airbus A350 XWB flight hours will be in ETOPS flying, according to the manufacturer.
By the end of September, the A350 XWB had won orders for 750 aircraft from 39 customers worldwide, those this figure may fall as Airbus tries to convert customers for the very slow-selling A350-800 over to the comparably sized, slightly lower-range but cheaper new A330-800neo.