The FAA has approved additional extended operations (ETOPS) for the Boeing 787. The move allows 787s to be operated up to 330 minutes from a landing field. This is a serious upgrade in confidence in the aircraft. To date the 787 has had 180 minute ETOPS. For airline operators this additional time means a sharp rise in terms of what can be done with a 787. ETOPS 180 minute restrictions mean a twin engined aircraft may not fly further than 180 minutes (on a single engine) from a diversionary or emergency airfield.
For example, look at a long over water leg such as Perth to Johannesburg. It may only be 5,173 miles, but with 180 minutes ETOPS, the route cannot be performed by a 787 and abide by FAA rules. The dark blue section shows areas where the airplane would be outside its 180 minute box.
By increasing the ETOPS to 330 minutes and looking at the same route, it is apparent what an impact this new rule has. A 787 would have no problem serving the route in terms of range, but would run into the FAA restriction (if it applied). The 777 already has 330 minute ETOPS.
As big twins prove their engines ever more reliable, ETOPS restrictions have been eased. There are some who will remember Pan Am’s A310s flying from Europe taking much longer to cross the Atlantic because they had to fly a more circular route to stay within the ETOPS restrictions in force at the time. For many airlines this new rule is most convenient. It also makes the 787 that much more attractive.