A new aviation rules will allow carriers operating in the South Pacific to take a “short cut” over the North Pole for the first time.
Under the new relaxation of aviation rules, British air passengers will be able to cut the times of long-haul flights by as much as half and fly faster to exotic destinations.
It could also mean cheaper and cleaner flights for holidaymakers.
While pilots from Australia taking passengers to South America will be able to steer more direct courses making big savings in time, fuel and emissions.
Until now, Boeing’s 777 and the new 787 Dreamliner jets had for safety reasons to stay within a three hour range (180 minutes) of the nearest diversion airport.
Under the new rules, that has been nearly doubled to five and a half hours, (330 minutes) taking account of improvements in aircraft and engine technology.
It means, for example, that planes from the UK will be able to take a non-stop flight – dubbed “Santa’s short cut” – over the North Pole to destinations such as Hawaii, Alaska or French Polynesia.
It also means shorter journeys, cheaper flights, less fuel, and lower emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the so-called greenhouse gas, which is blamed for global warming.
The “extended operations” rules define the time that an aircraft is permitted to be from an emergency landing site in case of an engine failure and is applied to two-engine jets.
The new regulation follows a decision by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to allow up to 330-minutes “extended operations” for Boeings’ 777 fleet.
It allows airlines operating Boeing 777-300ER (extended range), 777-200LR (longer range), 777 Freighter and 777-200ER models equipped with General Electric engines to fly up to 330 minutes from a potential “diversion” airport.
Approval for the Boeing 777-200ER equipped with British Rolls-Royce and American Pratt & Whitney engines is expected to follow over the next few months.
The first airline to take advantage of the new longer “extended operations” option is Air New Zealand which earlier this month flew from Los Angeles to Auckland.
Last October The European Aviation Safety Agency granted a 207-minute rating after receiving an application from Air France to fly a 777-300ER from Los Angeles to Papeete, Tahiti. The European agency is also expected to adopt the 330-minute rule.
Planes once flew over the North Pole during the Cold War in the 1950s to avoid Communist Bloc airspace.