Just because the US Federal Aviation Administration has finally made its updated extended twin-engined operations (ETOPS) rules a legal fait accompli does not mean it is the last we will hear of it.

The European Aviation Safety Agency has yet to update its rules on ETOPS and what it calls LROPS (long-range operations by trijets and quads), and although there will be some convergence, significant differences will remain in place.

Meanwhile, expect convergence in the attitudes of Airbus and Boeing to the ETOPS/LROPS debate. Boeing is back in long-term four-jet passenger aircraft production since receiving Lufthansa's order for 20 of its stretched, rewinged 747-8, with reason to hope for customers like Qantas, Japan Air Lines and British Airways. So Boeing no longer has quite the same interest in eliminating the operational advantages that quads have over twins. The reciprocal logic applies to Airbus: now it has launched the A350 XWB to compete with Boeing's latest 777 series and the 787, which the A330 could not do, it wants to be able to offer its new big twin across as wide a marketplace as possible.

The real test, however, will be whether twinjet operators will use the full freedom proffered by the new FAA rule. If they do and they get unlucky, the courts, not the FAA, will decide whether the risk was unreasonable.

Source: Flight International