The year was 1927.  Several aspiring aviators had died in pursuit of the Orteig Prize, being the first to cross the Atlantic non-stop.

A young, American pilot named Charles Lindbergh was the next pilot up to the challenge.  He was sporting a snug, single-engine piston Ryan NYP airplane dubbed the Spirit of St. Louis.  The weighed down airplane barely cleared telephone lines when taking off of the muddy runway.  Over the next 33.5 hours in the cramped cockpit of the Spirit of St. Louis, Lindbergh battled storms, icing, fog, and navigated by the stars to arrive exhausted but safely at Le Bourget Airport in France. Eighty years from this monumental feat, we have come a long way in making oceanic air travel safer and much more comfortable.

Early passengers would be envious in how easy and comfortable ocean crossings are in the 777.  The twin aisle, multi class cabin allows passengers to take a long nap or enjoy a cocktail with a great book.  Full reclining, private booths come standard on most airliner business class sections.  Optional Wi-Fi and under seat power outlets allow business travelers to be productive on their way to an important meeting.

For pilots, say good-bye to celestial navigation and hello to the fancy Air Data Inertial Reference Unit (ADIRU).  With automatic GPS updating, this unit will have your current position, around the world, narrowed down to within a few meters.  This unit also has multiple backup power and systems so that you’ll never be lost in the middle of the ocean.


The dual crossfeed valves also enhance the safety of this airplane in case you were to have a crossfeed valve fail in flight.  Most of the time, you do not have to operate the crossfeed valves.  Maybe if you were on the ground for a while running the APU you might have a slight main tank imbalance.  However, the most critical time you want your crossfeed valves to operate is when you have an engine failure.  Without an operable crossfeed valve, the aircraft would get very difficult to control laterally while the main tank fuel imbalance increases.  The 777 adds redundancy to this system, making it a premium choice for overwater safety.

You will almost never have a problem in not being able to take enough fuel.  The monstrous fuel tanks hold over 300,000 lbs of fuel.  The large, powerful engines of the 777 will help you make it off the ground with all of this heavy fuel.  “Fuel stop” will become a foreign term to you in the 777.  You will become more acquainted with the term “Non-stop.”

In the middle of the ocean, reliable communications and radar coverage are hard to come by.  Luckily, the 777 features the modern Datalink system.  Both ATC and company can instantly send text messages to the flight deck via Datalink.  This helps reduce misunderstandings that are common with the scratchy HF radio.  And trust me, HF radios are not fun to use.  If you have it turned up just a touch too much, you will about go deaf by the static and tones that are common with HF radios.  It is also a pain to find the right frequency because for the same location, the operating frequency changes during the day as the atmosphere changes.  Datalink is not susceptible to these problems.

Afraid of the dark?  Don’t worry; it is almost impossible for you to be left without power in the 777.  The 777 features 2 backup generators, an


Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), and several bus ties.  The redundancy built into the 777 is unprecedented.  Even if both engines were to fail, you would still have power.  However, you wouldn’t have any thrust so finding a landing site would be a top priority!

If you are on a long flight over the ocean, the 777 is definitely the aircraft of choice.  All of the redundancy built into the 777 made it a perfect candidate for Extended-range Twin Engine Operation Performance Standards (ETOPS) certification.  ETOPS certification basically allows twin engine airplanes to fly more than an hour away from a suitable diversionary airport.  You will never be “stranded” in the middle of the ocean with the 777.  Instead, you will be able to comfortably recline to a warm steak and shrimp dinner served on the finest European flatware.  Just don’t tell Charles Lindbergh; he might become quite jealous!

Throttle On!

Michael Pittman

Angle of Attack 777 Crew

(Image Credit)

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