Before starting, I just wanted to thank you for a great site and your help in answering all our questions.
I was recently on a Royal Air Maroc flight from NY JFK to CMV (Casablanca Airport in Morocco). The flight is usually 6h30min long but due to ”defective radar", the pilot told us, before we departed, that we would have to take an alternate route which would take 10h30min to get us to Casablanca!
One of the flight attendants told me that the plane will have to fly "non-ETOPS".
Which route was the pilot planning to take? Is that advisable?
Thanks for all your help!
P.S. Note that the radar started functioning again 45 minutes into our flight and the pilot said we would be able to follow our initial route. Rest of the flight was, as it usually is, calm and uneventful and we got to CMV within less than 6h30min.
During the first 45 minutes of the flight, the plane was cruising at 20,000 ft (vs. the usual 34,000 ft).
ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards) rules permit twin-engine commercial planes to fly routes that are farther than a distance of 60 minutes' flying time from an emergency or diversion airport.
What it means is that if an engine failed in a twin-engine airliner, it must be able to fly to a diversion airport on the single remaining engine and land within 60 minutes.
This rule effectively allows twin-engine planes to fly long-distance routes that were previously off-limits to them. So when you were told that the plane has to fly a “non-ETOPS” route, it could then no longer fly across the Atlantic Ocean in a straight line because all the diversion airports are more than 60 minutes away. Therefore, I assume the captain would have to fly a circular route that hugs closely to the coastline – initially a North Easterly track towards Greenland, then Easterly to Iceland and finally South Easterly towards England and across Spain to Casablanca, hence 10 hours 30 minutes long.
When the pilot resume the ETOPS flight (normally, a defective radar would prevent the plane from flying at night except at daytime and in very good weather condition), it became legal for him to take the shortest route, i.e. 6 hours 30 minutes.
The initial low cruising level could be due to conflicting air traffic along the route.
If you like what you read, more stories are found in my book LIFE IN THE SKIES (Preview here) and you can purchase a copy here. To check for any latest updates or postings, you can follow my Twitter at @CaptKHLim or Facebook here