Calculating ETPs for GA Aircraft – Part 2: Special Considerations
This business aviation blog post continues from our article last week, entitled “Calculating ETPs for GA Aircraft – Part 1: Planning Tips .”
When a variety of equal time point (ETP) possibilities are available, operators have the option of being more selective and choosing airports with the best available service and support capabilities. However, there are times when available ETPs may be few and far between — such as over the Siberian region — and you may need to work with options that are less than ideal.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Selecting ETPs
Ideally, selected ETPs should be airports of entry (AOEs) that are open at the time you’ll be in the vicinity, have an instrument landing system (ILS), runway lights, fuel availability and all required services. It’s recommended that the operator and 3rd-party provider have a conversation on specific ETP requirements, such as runway length, runway surface material, availability of services and options for scheduled commercial flights out of the location. But, there are some cases — including depressurization or engine fire — when you just need to get on the ground quickly. In such cases, operators will be less selective in terms of ETP airport amenities and may consider landing in higher risk areas. In cases of emergencies you may need that first available viable airport, even if it’s not an AOE.
2. Top issues with ETPs
When flying over large sparsely populated areas there may be limited options in terms of ETPs and you may need to consider the possibility of a “wet footprint.” For example, on a polar routing from Teterboro (KTEB) to Beijing (ZBAA), the nearest airport may be several hundred miles away from a certain point on your flight plan and could be restricted to a Russian military base. On a flight across the South Atlantic your only practical ETP may be Ascension Island (FHAW), a joint U.S./UK military base that does not technically allow its airfield to be used as an alternate or an ETP. Another issue that may come up is choosing an ETP with runway issues — Kanton Island (PCIS) has a 7000 ft. runway but it’s a rough coral surface, has a lack of essential services and/or closures/curfews in effect.
3. Wet footprints
A wet footprint is an area encompassing the distance on either side of an ETP where if the aircraft is required to descend it will not have sufficient fuel to make either the destination or the point of departure. The size of the wet footprint area is determined by total fuel onboard, the altitude that the aircraft will descend to and the wind factor. In the event of an emergency descent to 10,000 ft. as a result of depressurization, fuel burn will be much higher than normal and the wet footprint may be extended. Part 135 charter (non-scheduled commercial) flights are prohibited from having wet footprints. While Part 91 private non-revenue operators do not have this restriction it’s always best practice to avoid wet footprints. Some operators will absolutely avoid any chance of a wet footprint scheduling an additional stop in the flight plan where possible, while other operators will look at options in minimizing potential wet footprints. For example, you may be able to eliminate a particular wet footprint by descending only to 15,000 or 20,000 ft. in event of depressurization. Doing so, however, may require carrying additional oxygen onboard.
4. Additional considerations
Selection of ETPs should reflect the particular requirements of the operator as well as the nature of the flight. For example, for air ambulance operations an ETP location close to a capable medical facility will be a plus. Another consideration may be selecting ETPs with adequate scheduled commercial services, so that the principal and/or passengers may proceed on to meetings at their intended destination.
5. Work with your 3rd-party provider
NBAA, FAA and other sites provide useful information on ETP selection. But, having your 3rd-party provider involved in the flight planning and ETP process will not only save you two to three hours in planning time but improve ETP coordination. Your 3rd-party provider will evaluate ETPs against the latest weather conditions/predictions, confirm service availability and present options to eliminate any potential wet footprints.
When planning flight plans and ETPs it’s important that your 3rd-party provider has your current flight department operational specifications on file. This will help ensure that the best and safest options can be determined for your flight.
Planning ETPs for longer flights over water or sparsely populated land masses is always recommended. Given sufficient lead time, and working with an experienced 3rd-party provider, ETP options are always available. However, these choices must take into account the operational specifications of the particular flight department and any other requirements needed for the particular leg.
If you have any questions about this article or would like flight planning assistance for your next trip, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.