I've heard of ETOPS, which permits the maximum duration for which a two-engined airplane can fly on one engine to the nearest airport.

Are 4-engined planes such as the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 subject to any equivalent rules? If not, can these planes safely fly on just one engine for as long as needed?

Also, how are aircraft given different ETOPS certifications? What makes the 787 get ETOPS-330 and the 767 only ETOPS-180 despite the similarity in range and (to an extent) engine power and design?

  • $\begingroup$ 787 is ETOPS-330 since 28 May 2014. These certifications can only be obtained after the type flew certain number of hours and demonstrated certain reliability. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 9:40
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, I edited my question. Thanks @JanHudec! $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 10:05
  • $\begingroup$ 747 and A380 are not designed to be flown on one engine only. They can, however, fly when one or two engines are down (two or three engines still running). $\endgroup$
    – florisla
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 14:56

2 Answers 2


Yes, three- and four-engine airliners follow 'Long-Range Operations' restrictions just like twin-engine airliners.

From WikiPedia:

Airbus proposed to replace ETOPS by a newer system, referred to as LROPS or Long Range Operational Performance Standards, which would affect all civil airliners, not just those with a twin-engine configuration


The FAA has decided to use the single term, 'extended operations,' or ETOPS, for all affected operations regardless of the number of engines on the airplane.

The large 4-engined airliners can not reliably fly long distances on one engine only. But they can fly on three engines just fine. When only two engines are available they divert to the nearest airport.

The ETOPS rules become relevant whenever a three- or four-engined jet diverts more than 180 minutes from the nearest airport.

For more information, refer to the airliners.net thread on 3 And 4 Engine Planes Requiring Etops.

  • $\begingroup$ Note that while Airbus proposed the name change to LROPS, that didn't actually happen. I'm fairly certain the FAA still calls it ETOPS and I think ICAO does, too. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 23:30

Other way round - the multi-engine rules existed long before ETOPS.

And no 747 pilot will continue as scheduled on one engine. If you are having enough problems that you lose 75% of your power you will punch "Nearest" on the navi and go there.

  • $\begingroup$ But I suppose "nearest" won't be an option if you're in the middle of the Pacific or doing a transpolar crossing. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 16:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It's always an option. A 747 (or any other certified aircraft) can continue cruise flight on one engine, but not well. The crew will head straight for "Nearest", dump excess fuel, make a straight-in approach channeling Zen, the Force and calling in any deity's favours they may have. No go-arounds. $\endgroup$
    – paul
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 23:41
  • $\begingroup$ A British Airways flight lost an engine just after takeoff from LAX in 2005 and continued all the way to the UK: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Airways_Flight_268 $\endgroup$
    – Khantahr
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ Also, while loss of an engine is an emergency, it is not such an emergency that would preclude a go around. There isn't anything terribly urgent about flying on one engine in the absence of something more serious like fire, smoke, some sort of other damage. $\endgroup$
    – Khantahr
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 17:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @FreeMan That stinks about the fly-by being cancelled. But, yeah, the GE90 is pretty much a beast. Once airborne, GE shut down the other three engines and flew that 747-200 on just the one GE90. :) It's amazing to have an engine whose nacelle diameter is about the same as the fuselage diameter of a 737. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 17:53

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .