The introduction of the Airbus A330-200 by charter airline Airtours International has been severely disrupted after the UK Civil Aviation Authority unexpectedly refused to clear it to operate its new twinjets on 180min extended range twin engined operations (ETOPS) flights.

UK-based Airtours introduced two 360-seat Rolls-Royce Trent 772B-powered A330-200s on its network, in July. Although both the R-R-powered A330-200 and the airline have full 180min ETOPS clearance, Airtours' A330 maintenance provider FLS does not. As a result, the aircraft is forced to operate transatlantic services using longer, more northerly tracks within 60min of diversion airports, adding almost 1h to flights.

FLS' ETOPS application was rejected by the CAA shortly before the A330s were delivered, on the basis that it does not have recent ETOPS experience. The company is responsible for trend monitoring of ETOPS on the A330 fleet, and although Airtours was aware that the company did not have current ETOPS clearance, it says that the CAA refusal came as "a surprise".

FLS says it is working with Airtours to build rapidly its A330 ETOPS departures to meet CAA requirements, after which Airtours will be cleared to operate flights to 180min ETOPS. Sources suggest that a minimum of 1,000 ETOPS departures are needed before approval will be granted, and that the airline aims to achieve this by the time its winter programme begins in November.

The lack of full ETOPS has forced Airtours to rethink the A330s' deployment, with 50% of the operations from London Gatwick being restricted to short haul Mediterranean operations to enable FLS to build its ETOPS departures tally. The aircraft is operating certain transatlantic services from Gatwick and Manchester to Orlando and the Caribbean, but Airtours has had to retain 330-seat 767-300ERs on other services originally earmarked for the A330s. A McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 has been called into duty for services to Bridgetown, Barbados.

Source: Flight International