What are Jet Extended Operations?

Air Travel

Created on: April 17, 2019

Updated on: April 17, 2019

I have had a keen interest in #publictransport ever since I was a child and I have a good friend who used to work for British Airways as a member of cabin crew.

This means that we have the occasional long conversations about aircraft and airlines. He worked for them some time ago in the 1980’s and I remember one of our conversations where he mentioned that you couldn’t fly an airliner over the Atlantic if it was a two-engine aircraft.


I later found out that the main reason why this was the case was that the aviation industry at the time was governed by ETOPS or extended operations. These were a series of standards and practices issued by the ICAO and the were from the following aircraft: such as the Airbus A300, A310, A320, A330 & A350 the Boeing 737, 757, 767, 777 & 787.

This refers to the flight times between diversion airports on a particular route and it didn’t matter whether you were flying over the sea or land.

Diversion Airports

Back in May 1985 TWA was awarded the first ETOPS-180 rating for their Boeing 767 service that was between St Louis, USA to Frankfurt West Germany.

ETOPS 180 means that the aircraft has to be capable of flying 180 minutes to an emergency landing airport en route.

Diversion airports are airports capable of handling a particular ETOPS rated aircraft during an emergency landing and whose flying distance at the point of emergency shall not exceed the ETOPS diversion period for that aircraft.

Any airport designated as an en route diversion airport must have the facilities to safely support that particular aircraft, and weather conditions at the time of arrival must allow a safe landing with an engine and/or systems malfunctioning.

Charter Flight via The New Found Land

Talking of diversion airports, over 20 years ago, we all booked a family holiday on Teletext (it was a text based overlay that was found on the TV) to Orlando during the height of the Summer holiday season in August. We boarded the plane at Gatwick Airport on to a really old and dishevelled Tri-Star. I remember one of the ceiling tiles had fallen off this was a charter flight on a wet lease.

What we didn’t know at the time was that we were scheduled to stop off at an emergency airport and this was Gander International Airport in Newfoundland, Canada. The Tri-Star is a twin-engine aeroplane with an additional tail engine and at the time One of the major reasons why we stopped in Gander was for refuelling at the time that Tristar wasn’t authorised to travel the entire journey without running out of fuel.

We had to leave the aircraft whilst the plane was being refuelled and I remember that in August it was freezing cold in the tiny airport terminal where we waited. One of the things I do remember was that I saw lots of pictures of Queen Elizabeth dotted all around the terminal.

Flying Time

Let’s get back to flying have you ever wondered why the time it takes to travel to the US from the UK is longer than the reverse. The reason behind this is because when you are travelling west the winds (or gulf stream) are pushing the plane back east.

When you are travelling eastbound the winds push you in an easterly direction due to the gulf stream.

The ETOPs regulations have gradually allowed smaller bodied aircraft to fly over the Atlantic and these days ETOPS-240 is the permitted standard.

This means that aircraft such as the 777, 787 ER have been flying for a number of years and the numbers of four engine aircraft have gradually reduced as airlines opt for more fuel-efficient aircraft.

Change is happening all around us each and every day and I really enjoy finding out about the latest ongoing developments in #publictransport.

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