Southwest Airlines has completed final tests towards gaining extended range twin-engine operational performance (ETOPS) certification. Once the approval is in place, the low-cost carrier will be one step closer to launching its much anticipated services between Hawaii and the US mainland.
Initially pencilled in for October 2018, the test flights had been further delayed due to the partial shutdown of the US government, which impacted some non-essential Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operations.
The carrier hopes to link Hawaii to major population centres in California including Oakland, San Diego, San Jose and Sacramento. Southwest also plans to provide an inter-island service allowing passengers to connect to the other destinations within the archipelago.
ETOPS approval is typically required when an airline wants to fly a twin-engine aircraft on a route which would entail a flying time of more than 60 minutes to a diversionary airport at the one-engine inoperative cruise speed. The relevant aviation authority – in this case the FAA – examines not only the proposed aircraft type but also the airline’s maintenance history and other relevant records. It is expected that upon receipt of the formal certification, Southwest will be in a position to announce further details such as route frequencies and launch dates.