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Extended Range Twin Operations Research Paper

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Updated: May 18th, 2022

Introduction

The purpose of the Extended Range Twin Operations (ETOPS) monitoring system is to significantly reduce the possibility of disaster and other major problems when it comes to long-distance flights. A simplified explanation of ETOPS can be seen in the following statement, “the aircraft could fly up to 180 minutes from an alternative airport in the unlikely event of an engine failure” (Birtles, 2001, p.26). A system has to be in place because long flights mean more stress for the airplane’s frame and the engine. The creation of ETOPS is a major breakthrough when it comes to aviation management.

The establishment of policy and guidelines is an important first step because it is proof that the authorities in the civil aviation industry had succeeded in identifying critical areas. The necessity of flying an aircraft three hours until the next available airport is something that must be carefully analyzed. ETOPS has proven effective when it comes to mitigating risks. However, policy and guidelines can only provide a system that of tracking and accountability.

The most critical part of the whole process is the ability to properly maintain the aircraft so that it can withstand the rigors of long flights. The rules had been set regarding the type of aircraft that can handle long-distance flights and the level of skills required to fly such aircraft. But without the support of an able maintenance team there is no way to determine if a particular aircraft is airworthy to fly from one airport to the next.

It is imperative to establish a continuous airworthiness maintenance schedule (Civil Aviation Authority, 2002, p.39). All relevant personnel and all available resource persons must help review and critic the maintenance schedule to determine if every aspect of an ETOPS flight has been considered and the appropriate maintenance procedure is in place.

ETOPS Manual

One of the critical steps in ensuring safety with regards to ETOPS is the development of a manual. The ETOPS manual significantly improves the capability of maintenance teams to identify problems. At the same time the manual can enhance the capability of maintenance team to have the “requisite experience and ability to maintain and operate these airplanes at the required level of reliability and competence” (Ekstrand, 2007, p.13).

A manual can also provide a systematic way of discovering problems. A manual can also help inform maintenance crews and aviation personnel working in an airport to realize that every location has its own set of challenges. For example, “North and South Polar operations entail unique requirements such as special onboard equipment and a fuel freeze strategy” (Ekstrand,2007, p.12). A manual helps to systematize the maintenance process.

Oil Consumption Program

Maintenance teams must be aware of the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to the use of lubricants/oil. There must be a strict policy when it comes to monitoring the levels of oil and the amount added every time an aircraft departs from ETOPS stations. The monitoring must be continuous. The monitoring process even begins at the departure station.

Engine Condition Monitoring

There must be an identification of the parameters that have to be monitored. There must also be an identification of method of data gathering with regards to the condition of the engine. There must be a clear description of the corrective action that has to be undertaken the moment the maintenance teams has detected problems. The creation of the monitoring process will help the team determine the exact levels of deterioration of the engine and detect it when the problems are still at an early stage. In this manner the maintenance crew can easily rectify the problem before it breaches safety levels. It is also imperative that the team is aware of engine limit margins. The ability to determine these limits will enable the pilots can conduct a prolonged single-engine diversion “without exceeding approved engine limits (i.e. rotor speeds, exhaust gas temperatures) at all approved power levels and expected environmental conditions” (Civil Aviation Authority, 2002, p.40). The monitoring process must take into account additional loading demands such as anti-ice, electrical etc. (Civil Aviation Authority, 2002, p.40). This is just one of the ways to ensure the safety of the crew and the passengers.

Rectification of Aircraft Defects

It is the responsibility of the operator to establish a verification system. It is also the responsibility of the operator to develop the procedures that will help the maintenance crews to perform the necessary corrective actions. The procedures that had been established for use must be applied in the events of: a) engine shutdown; primary system failure; adverse trends; and any prescribed events which require verification flight or other action and develop the methodology that would assure its accomplishment (Civil Aviation Authority, 2002, p.40). It is also important that there is a way to determine the authorized personnel who is responsible for performing verification action. The same goes for the personnel authorized to perform the necessary action. This information must be included in the manual.

Reliability Program

It is imperative that “an ETOPS operator should carefully consider the possible adverse effects that change in airplane equipment or operating procedures may have on the original evaluation conducted when the airplane was approved for ETOPS before implementing such changes” (Florio, 2011, p.288). This mindset must be incorporated into a reliability program designed earlier. The value of the program can be seen in early identification of issues related to ETOPS. The information gathered from this monitoring scheme aids in early prevention. At the same time “the program should be event-oriented and incorporate reporting procedures for significant events detrimental to ETOPS flights” (Civil Aviation Authority, 2002, p. 40). There must also be a way for the operator to report to aviation authorities when it comes to problems that are deemed reportable in accordance to the reliability program that they have created.

Propulsion System Monitoring

It is the responsibility of the operator to conduct regular assessment of the aircraft’s propulsion system. The purpose is to determine its reliability when it comes to ETOPS. Each month the operator has to submit data gathered from the assessment exercise to the aviation authorities. In the event of an undesirable trend there must be an automatic evaluation that has to be conducted by the operator with the assistance of aviation authorities. They must be able to identify if a corrective action must take place or limit the operation of the aircraft.

Maintenance Training

There is no need to elaborate on the importance of maintenance training. The maintenance teams responsible for long-range aircrafts must continue to hone their skills and to always maintain a level of readiness when it comes to the special requirements and special needs of this type of operation. The maintenance teams must be aware of all the requirements and all the procedures established by the operator. There must be a clear chain of command to achieve an efficient manner of reporting when an adverse trend is detected.

ETOPS Parts Control

It is the responsibility of the operator to develop a parts control program (Florio, 2011). The goal is to develop a mechanism that will ensure the delivery and use of the proper parts for ETOPS purposes (Ekstrand, 2007). Parts verification is of utmost importance especially when it comes to parts borrowing and pooling arrangements that may result in confusion and error. The maintenance crew must maintain the necessary configuration to ensure safety of the aircraft and its passengers.

Conclusion

Long-range flights are fraught with risk. However, this can be averted and risks are mitigated if there is a reliable system of monitoring and rectifying errors at the earliest possible stage. The ETOPS system is very effective because it has provided clear directives with regards to the type of aircraft that can be considered as airworthy in the context of long-range flights. The ETOPS system also provides clear directives when it comes to the responsibility of the operators in the establishment of effective maintenance programs.

References

Birtles, Pl (2001). Boeing 757. Washington, D.C.: MBI Publishing.

Civil Aviation Authority. (2002). Extended Range Twin Operations (ETOPS). Web.

Ekstrand, C. (2007). The New FAA ETOPS Rule. Web.

Florio, F. (2011). Airworthiness: An Introduction to Aircraft Certification. 2nd ed. New York: Elsevier.

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