The US Federal Aviation Administration has cleared the Next Generation Boeing 737 for 180min extended range twin operations (ETOPS) and is thought to be close to approving a 207min extension for the 777.

The extension from 120min to 180min is expected to benefit at least four operators by the end of the year. These are likely to include Air Pacific, Aloha Airlines and Continental Micronesia. All have either inaugurated, or plan to begin, long range overwater operations with the twinjet family.

The move to 207min for the 777, prompted by the Air Transport Association (ATA) and the Air Line Pilots Association, and backed by Boeing, is expected to be given the green light by the end of the month. The FAA, however, remains cautious, saying: "We are looking at the ATA proposal and we are still reviewing and deliberating the comments submitted. We expect to make a decision by the end of the calendar year".

By extending the ETOPS 180min clearance by 15%, the FAA would increase the operational flexibility of 777 users on north Pacific routes by closing a gap that may sometimes appear south of the Kamchatka Peninsula because of airport weather closures or volcanic activity in the region.

The proposal has been opposed by Airbus, which "strongly encourages the modernisation of ETOPS standards, regulations and operational practices". Airbus concern over the ad hoc change to the ETOPS extension is shared by the Allied Pilots Association, the British Airline Pilots Association and French DGAC.

Source: Flight International