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After several delays, Southwest Airlines starts its first test flights to Hawaii on Tuesday.
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Southwest Airlines' first Hawaiian departure ever is scheduled to leave Honolulu International Airport for Dallas Love Field at 2.10 pm. ET (local time from 09.10 am) on Wednesday.

Southwest Flight 8725 marks the return of the plane that the courier flew to Honolulu a day earlier from Oakland, California. That flight, the first from Southwest to the state of Hawaii, served as a test flight as part of Southwests efforts to obtain the "ETOPS" certification required by the Federal Aviation Administration to take long flights over water with its twin-engine Boeing 737- to do jets.

The flight had no paying passengers, only FAA representatives and Southwest pilots and employees who helped with the certification effort. The "validation flight" of Tuesday focused on long-distance navigation and communication procedures, part of the authorization process.

But that did not stop Southwest from greeting the flight with fanfare in a ceremony complete with Hawaiian leis and group photos. Even the Southwest Boeing 737 that made the flight, got a gigantic slate.

Southwest placed a photo of the arrival and showed his Boeing 737 with the iconic Diamond Head peak near the Waikiki beach in the background.

"You see that, that's how it looks like a Southwestern bird lands on Hawaii!" Southwest said through social media.

Now Southwest will fly the plane from Hawaii – and all the way back to Texas – while continuing its flight test and certification process that it must complete before it can provide service to the state.

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A Southwest Airlines jet aircraft is first seen on 5 February 2018 in Hawaii after the Boeing 737-800 lands in Honolulu as part of the courier's authorization process with the FAA to provide future scheduled service to the state. (Photo: Southwest Airlines)

While Boeing 737's regularly fly between Hawaii and the US west coast, the non-stop to Texas is an unusually long flight.

"The validation tests are conducted in the airspace between Hawaii and the mainland," Southwest spokesman Brian Parrish told USA TODAY & # 39; s Today in the Sky blog. "Because of the favorable wind in the back and the light load of an aircraft today, thanks to the circumstances we can fly the ETOPS 737-800 non-stop to our house on Love Field."

For those who wanted to read the tea leaves, Parrish added that the flight to Dallas "does not indicate service intentions that go beyond those we have already announced."

Southwest has already announced where it plans to fly as soon as its Hawaii service starts, and says it plans to offer routes that connect four California airports (Oakland, San Diego, Sacramento and San Jose) to four in Hawaii (Honolulu on the island of Oahu, the island of Kauai, Kahului on the island of Maui and Kona on the "Big Island" of Hawaii).

When that service could start, it is still under discussion.

Southwest was already in the process of securing the necessary ETOPS certification, but the effort was unexpectedly delayed during the federal government shutdown that did justice to federal workers, including FAA inspectors.

While the airline's income request was filed at the end of January, Kelly said he expected his airline to be able to start operations around Hawaii six to eight weeks after resuming the FAA approval process. For the shutdown, he said, Southwest strove for a startup on 1 February, although it never published that target date.

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For the time being, Southwest is continuing its efforts to obtain the certification that allows the 737s to fly between the mainland of the United States and Hawaii. The certification – an abbreviation of "Extended-range, Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards" – is standard for airlines that want to deploy twin-engine aircraft on long overwater routes where diversion airports are scarce.

He then suggested that if the shutdown ended within a week – which it did – the airline could possibly start passenger flights in mid-March. A possible problem area, however, is that later this month a deadline is threatening for another possible shutdown.

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Since aircraft technology has progressed in recent decades, the certification has become customary. From the American mainland it is often used for widebody jets that make long-distance transoceanic routes to Europe and Asia. For Hawaii flights, many US carriers already have ETOPS certification for flying narrow-body aircraft to and from the state.

Although many of its US rivals already have the certification, Southwest's attempt to pursue a recent development. Since its launch in 1971, the airline has been flying only within the mainland of the United States for more than 40 years. But that changed in 2014 when Southwest started flying to various destinations in the Caribbean. Since then it has extended its footprint to Mexico and Costa Rica, but none of these flights requires ETOPS certification. But with the planned Hawaii service, Southwest eventually had to request permission for the ETOPS service.

Contributions: Dawn Gilbertson

TODAY IN THE SKY: Southwest & # 39; s first day of international flying is in the books (2014)

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