Re: ETOPS for north pole routes

From:         kls@ohare.Chicago.COM (Karl Swartz)
Organization: Chicago Software Works, Menlo Park, California
Date:         12 Oct 96 02:35:57 
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>In the western artcic, there is Inuvik (YEV) at 133 43W 68 21N with
>paved runway (again capable of handling large military transports
>(that launched the cruise missile for instance), F18s and 737s. In the
>southern eastern arctic, there is Iqaluit (YFB) at 68 31W 63 45N with
>similar facilities.

Iqaluit, formerly known as Frobisher or Frobisher Bay, hence the YFB
IATA code, is interesting as it allows a non-ETOPS (60 minute rule
time) crossing of the North Atlantic by filling a small "no go" area
between Sondre Stromfjord and Goose Bay.  It's not necessary for 90
minutes or greater rule times, and for Atlantic crossings too/from
the east coast of North America it's too far west of the shortest
routes to be useful.  It's an alternate for flights between Europe
and the west coast, though.

I don't know about Inuvik (YEV), but it looks like it might be a
useful location.

>There is also Alert at the nortern tip of Ellesmere island (approx
>85 00N, which brings it to about 600km from the north pole). Alert is
>a military outpost closed to the public, but it does handle military
>transports. Could this be considered as a "legal" emergency landing
>point when considering ETOPS routes ?

In more remote areas, miltary fields definitely can be alternates.
Diego Garcia, for example, is an alternate in the Indian Ocean even
though it's little more than an atoll with a militar airstrip on it.
Alert has an IATA code -- YLT -- which may or may not have any
significance as to its availability as an alternate.

>I beleive that Resolute Bay (YRB - Long: 94 50W lat: 74 42N) is
>capable of handling large jets even though its runway is gravel. It
>handles 737 and 727s easily every day and I was told that a 747 has
>landed there at least once.

Given how far north it is, I suspect the gravel is permanently frozen
and probably almost as good as concrete!  In any case, at 120 minute
and greater rule times, it's redundant if Inuvik, Iqaluit, and Alert
are all available -- look at,YEV,YFB,YLT)&PATH=YRB&RANGE-STYLE=outline

That doesn't mean it's not useful, though, since weather closures may
close other alternates.

>So, if Alert is legal, and if there is an airport some 2000km south of
>the north pole on the russian (or scandinavian) side, then would ETOPS
>be possible ?

That last part is a big if.  Scandanavian airports aren't enough since
Russia is so large, and airports in northern Russia are scarce and may
not be available for commercial operations if they exist.

The following airports are from the ETOPS database used in my mapper.
Combined with Inuvik, Iqaluit, and Alert, they form a ring defining
the northern edge of ETOPS operations.

    BIAR    Akureyri, Iceland
    ENVA    Trondheim (Varrnes), Norway

    LED     St. Petersburg, Russia
    SVO     Moscow (Sheremetyevo 2), Russia
    OVB     Novosibirsk, Russia
    ULN     Ulan Bator, Mongolia
    VVO     Vladivostok, Russia

    UHSS    Yuzhno Sakhalinsk, Sakhalin, Russia
    UHPP    Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka, Russia
    PASY    Shemya AFB, Alaska, United States
    AKN     King Salmon, Alaska, United States

The map still shows a sizable no-go area over northern Siberia and the
Artic Ocean above Siberia, even at a 180 minute rule time:,YEV,YFB,+BIAR,ENVA,+LED,SVO,OVB,ULN,VVO,+UHSS,UHPP,PASY,AKN)&RANGE-STYLE=outline

Murmansk (ULMM) probably has a suitable airport and helps some, but
the routes it opens up to ETOPS are of pretty dubious value -- the
most interesting I can see is San Francisco (SFO) to Tashkent (TAS).
I doubt that's a route that's begging for non-stop service.  JFK-SIN
is possible with Murmansk, but at 8286nm it's beyond the reach of any
current airliner, twin or otherwise.  (The four-engined A340-8000,
with 8000nm range, comes closest.)

The large remaining "no go" area suggests more interesting possibil-
ities.  The largest city in northern Siberia I can find on my map is
Igarka, at roughly N68 E87.  If it has a suitable airport, most of
the Arctic is covered, with only a relatively small "no go" area east
of the New Siberian Islands.

What makes this interesting is that it opens up routes between Southern
Asia and the eastern United States and Canada.  For example, Igarka
(and Alert) allows JFK-HKG with 180 minute ETOPS.  At 7011 nm, it's a
long flight for a twin, but within the 7186 nm range Boeing claims for
the 777-200 IGW, the first of which (a 777-236IGW for British Airways)
was rolled out on August 21.  JFK-SEL still hits the small remaining
"no go" area, but the diversion required to avoid it doesn't appear to
be very large.

One final question is if the weather is would routinely allow these
northern airports to be considered as alternates.  Iceland is a key
to the North Atlantic, but Keflavik is prone to fog.  The weather at
Akureyri, on the north coast of Iceland, has a low correlation with
Keflavik, so one or the other is likely to be available.  Without
alternatives for even more remote airports like Alert and Igarka,
the probability of weather-induced cancellations might make ETOPS
impractical, if not impossible, for routes that almost literally cross
the North Pole.

Karl Swartz	|Home
Moderator of sci.aeronautics.airliners -- Unix/network work pays the bills