Hi Capt Lim,
I will be flying from Chicago O'Hare to London Heathrow on a Boeing 777 soon. Will our flight be planned such that, in the event of problems, the pilot can land "quickly" on a suitable airport?
I always fear that, once over water, there is no turning back? How far away from land will we be flying?
P.S. - Really enjoy your website!
There are many similar questions about flying over the water on the Boeing 777 in this site. I hope you have read them.
Your flight from Chicago O'Hare to London Heathrow will mostly be across the North Atlantic or about 80 per cent of flying over the water. Yes, your pilot on the Boeing 777 would always be prepared for any emergencies that are likely to arise as he flies you over the Ocean. The Boeing 777 has been certified to fly for 3 hours on one engine should the other one fail in flight. This is a very rare occurrence. Despite this odds, yet one incident actually happened on an United Airlines Boeing 777, flying from Auckland to Los Angeles sometime in April this year (2003). There was no need for him to "quickly" land for he could still continue to fly on only one engine for 3 hours and 12 minutes before he landed at an airport in the Hawaiian Islands, without any problem.
There is no fear once over the water as the pilot could always turn back if he wants to. This would depend on the circumstances of the case. For instance, on your particular flight to London, one of the suitable airport where he could "quickly" land somewhere at the halfway point, is Stromfjord Airport in Greenland. Should an emergency arise at that point, the Captain could still turn back to land, say at Gander Airport in Newfoundland, Canada, if he thinks that would be a better place to divert to. Furthermore, there is no fixed rule as to how far the pilot can fly away from any land mass as long as he is within 3 hours from a suitable airport. That is equivalent to about 1250 nautical miles or 2250 kilometers!
Happy flying (over the Ocean)!