Southwest Airlines first flight to Hawaii took off Tuesday from Oakland on the first of a series of flights required to prove to the FAA that the airline can safely fly the long overwater route.
The airline, which has been working on adding Hawaii for some time, hit a delay in its certification last month when FAA safety officials were off the job because of the extended government shutdown. ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards) certification is required to prove not only that the plane can operate in adverse conditions, including one-engine operation and diversion.
There will be a number of additional flights and simulations before FAA signs off. Once received Southwest will announce detailed schedules for its flights from four California cities. While airlines normally announce routes well in advance to allow them to fill seats, Southwest will start quickly; it has a loyal base that appears to be asking only "How soon can we go?"