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A United Airlines flight from Denver to Honolulu successfully executed a safe emergency landing on Saturday after suffering an fiery engine failure shortly after takeoff.
Though debris spewed across Denver suburbs, the aircraft was able to quickly turn around and land back at Denver International Airport with no injuries or lives lost.
The entire ordeal lasted less than 30 minutes since the failure occurred just miles from a major international airport. But as this aircraft was heading to Hawaii, there was a possibility that the aircraft could have lost its engine while flying high over the Pacific Ocean — with the nearest airport potentially hundreds of miles away.
It’s a scenario that regulators have feared since the beginning of the jet age. The guiding theory was that having more engines on a plane would help airliners make it to the nearest airport in the event of a failure. Three and four-engine planes like the Boeing 747, Douglas DC-8, and Lockheed L-1011, among numerous others, ruled oceanic skies for exactly that reason.
Regulators eventually created Extended-range Twin-engine Operations Performance Standards, or ETOPS, where twin-engine aircraft could cross oceans. Aircraft only had to stay within a certain flight time from the nearest suitable airport in case an emergency landing was required.
The Boeing 777-200, the plane in question in the incident over the weekend, can fly over five hours with just one engine thanks to its 330-minute ETOPS certification. That’s around the flight time from Los Angeles to Honolulu.
When flying over the Atlantic between North America and Europe, diversion airports along the way typically include Keflavik Airport in Iceland, Gander International Airport in Canada, and Narsarsuaq Airport in Greenland. But flights to Hawaii from the mainland US often have no intermediate airports along the route, leaving pilots with two options: return to …read more
Source:: Business Insider