Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) is a step closer reclaiming the title of having the world’s longest nonstop passenger flight after the first of its seven Airbus A350-900ULR (Ultra Long Range) aircraft on order emerged from the manufacturer’s Toulouse paintshop.
The aircraft, MSN220, has been painted in the airline’s livery and will undergo some further testing before being delivered to the airline “in the coming months”, Airbus said on Monday (European time). SIA has said previously the first A350-900ULR would be delivered by September.
The A350-900ULR will allow SIA to resume nonstop Singapore-New York flights which are scheduled to begin on October 11 2018. The 8,285nm route was suspended in 2013 when when high fuel prices made it uneconomical with Airbus A340-500s.
Currently, the world’s longest nonstop flight by distance is Qatar Airways’ Doha-Auckland service, which measures 7,848nm and is served with Boeing 777-200LR equipment.
SIA also plans to use the A350-900ULR to bring back Singapore-Los Angeles nonstop flights, as well as to operate some nonstop Singapore-San Francisco services.
The A350-900ULR features a modified fuel system which increases the fuel carrying capacity by 24,000 litres (from 141,000 litres to 165,000 litres) over the standard A350-900 without the need for additional fuel tanks.
While there are no changes to the size of the centre fuel tank, modifications to the layout of the piping and valves within has allowed for the increase in fuel carrying capacity.
There is also a performance improvement package with larger winglets, a slight twist to the wing compared with the standard A350-900, as well as changes to the flap fairing and belly fairing.
The A350-900ULR also has maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 280 tonnes, compared with previously certified MTOW of between 268 tonnes and 275 tonnes for the standard A350-900 variant.
The aircraft’s flight test program, which kicked off in late April, has recently concluded. The aircraft used for the flight tests, MSN216, was going through its cabin fit out, Airbus said.
Airbus has not published seating data for the the A350-900ULR, stating only the long-range variant was capable of flying more than 20 hours and had a range of up to 9,700nm based on a “typical high premium cabin”.
SIA plans to configure its A350-900ULRs with 161 seats, comprising 67 in business class and 94 in premium economy class. There will be no economy seating for SIA’s ultra long haul missions. All seven A350-900ULRs were expected to be in the fleet by the end of calendar 2018.
The A350 platform is also a contender for Qantas’s Project Sunrise challenge to Airbus and Boeing for an aircraft capable of operating nonstop from Australia’s east coast to London and New York carrying 300 passengers across four cabin classes.
VIDEO: An illustration of the Airbus A350-900ULR in Singapore Airlines livery. (Singapore Airlines)
Current longest nonstop passenger flights by distance (nautical miles)
1. Auckland-Doha (7,848nm) – operated by Qatar Airways with Boeing 777-200LR.
2. London Heathrow-Perth (7,829nm) – operated by Qantas Airways with Boeing 787-9
3. Auckland-Dubai (7,668nm) – operated by Emirates Airline with Airbus A380
4. Los Angeles-Singapore (7,621nm) – operated by United with Boeing 787-9. (And Singapore Airlines with Airbus A350-900ULR from November 2 2018)
5. Houston-Sydney (7,470nm) – operated by United with Boeing 787-9
6. Sydney-Dallas/Fort Worth (7,454nm) – operated by Qantas with Airbus A380
7. San Francisco-Singapore (7,339nm) – operated by United with Boeing 787-9 until October 27 2018 and Singapore Airlines with Airbus A350-900. SIA also adding A350-900ULR flights on the route from November 28 2018
8. Atlanta-Johannesburg (7,333nm) – operated by Delta Air Lines with Boeing 777-200LR
9. Abu Dhabi-Los Angeles (7,291nm) – operated by Etihad Airways with Boeing 777-300ER
Planned future routes
1. New York Newark-Singapore (8,285nm) – to be operated by Singapore Airlines with Airbus A350-900ULR. From October 11.
2. Manila-New York (JFK) (7,404nm) – to be operated by Philippine Airlines with Airbus A350-900. From October 29 2018
3. Auckland-Chicago (7,111nm) – to be operated by Air New Zealand with Boeing 787-9. From November 30 2018
4. Hong Kong-Washington DC (7,085nm) to be operated by Cathay Pacific with Airbus A350-1000. From September 15 2018
1. Sydney-London (LHR) (9,188nm) – Qantas
2. Sydney-New York (JFK) (8,646nm) – Qantas
3. Sydney-Chicago (ORD) (8,022nm) – Qantas
4. Melbourne-Dallas/Fort Worth (7,814nm) – Qantas
5. Auckland-New York (JFK) (7,672nm) – Air New Zealand