You Now Have Even Less Reason To Panic If A Plane Loses An Engine In Flight

Airbus a350 REUTERS/Tim ChongRest easy if an engine goes out.

Engine failures on commerical aircraft do still happen.

We reported on a recent incident back in August involving a twin-engined Boeing.

However, as terrifying as they may be for passengers, an engine failure isn’t serious as one might think.

When an aircraft is flying without one of its engines, it tends to fly at a lower altitude and work the remaining engine harder. This makes the plane less fuel-efficient and reduces range. But the vast majority of twin-engine long-haul airliners can perform this manoeuvre with no significant reduction in capabilities.

Before a twin-engine airliner is allowed to fly long-distance routes over large bodies of water or through uninhabited regions like the Arctic, it must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for ETOPS or Extended Range Twin Operations.

The envelope of ETOPS is continually being pushed, as technology and safety advance. Europe’s Airbus, for example, has just won European safety approval to give its new A350 passenger jet virtually unlimited route flexibility in the event of an engine failure, sources familiar with the matter said.

The decision from the European Aviation Safety Agency officially grants the A350 ETOPS of “beyond 180 minutes” but will allow pilots to fly the twin-engined jet for up to 370 minutes in the event that one engine shuts down.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has clearance to operate for 330 minutes on one engine, but the difference between the two categories is seen as mainly a marketing one since both leave enough margin to operate on nearly all commercial routes.

Actually, the new ETOPS guideline for the A350 is a bit of step-down from what Airbus was aiming for: 420 minutes of ETOPS.

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