Airbus hands over worlds first A350-900ULR to Singapore Airlines

MSN 220, the first Airbus A350-900 Ultra Long Range (ULR), has been contractually handed over to Singapore Airlines – the only customer for the type – and will depart Toulouse on its delivery flight later today.

The aircraft is registered as 9V-SGA, which is the same registration used on one of the A340-500s that operated the Singapore to Newark and Los Angeles route.

With a maximum takeoff weight of 280t, modified fuel tanks and revised aerodynamics, the A350-900ULR is capable of flying 9700 nautical miles (18,000km) or 20 hours nonstop. This allows Singapore Airlines to reclaim the title of the longest flight, connecting Singapore and New York.

The revised aerodynamics include an adjusted wing twist, longer sharklets and minor flap track fairing adjustments, all of which will eventually become standard on all A350 models. The fuel system had piping, venting and its overall distribution in the wing adjusted to allow for an additional 24,000 liters to be carried onboard, raising the total capacity to 165,000 liters without auxiliary tanks. To support these changes, software changes were applied to the aircraft flight control and management computers.

Singapore Airlines has seven of the type on order which are to tie in with the airlines current growing fleet of A350-900s.

Singapore Airlines CEO, Mr Goh Choon Phong noted the significance of this delivery in the following statement:

“This is a proud moment for both Singapore Airlines and Airbus, not only because we have again strengthened our partnership, but also because we have pushed the limits with this highly advanced new aircraft to extend long-range flying to new lengths”

The aircraft will commence flights on the 11th of October, where it will relaunch non-stop flights between Singapore and New York –  a flight that has an average flight time of 18 hours and 45 minutes. Los Angeles and San Francisco are set to follow once additional aircraft have been delivered.

Initially, the flight will operate thrice-weekly, before switching to a daily service starting on the 18th of October.

The following infographic from Airbus outlines some key features of the new A350 variant:

Airbus hands over worlds first A350-900ULR to Singapore Airlines

Airbus hands over worlds first A350-900ULR to Singapore Airlines

161 seats will be fitted in the aircraft, of which, 67 are business and 94 are premium economy. The WiFi and advanced entertainment systems along with the ultra-quiet Airspace Cabin are set in place to ensure the passengers get through the long flight comfortably and easily

Airbus brought the A350-900ULR to life in order to compete with the Boeing 777-8. Although it has less payload capability, the A350-900ULR is simple to add into an existing A350 fleet, is available now and can be reverted back to a standard A350-900 for better resale value should ULR routes fail.

At this current time with Qantas, Air New Zealand, Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways all looking at possible long-haul aircraft, Airbus is investigating whether the A350-1000 should receive the ULR treatment, with engineers stating it would be an easy task and would compete aggressively with the Boeing 777-8 in terms of payload and range. Various arguments have come forward stating the original A350R would be the better option but that designation has since been adopted by Airbus as the regional variant.

All we can do is wait and monitor how the A350-900ULR performs with Singapore Airlines. The launch with such a prestige airline might get the attention of others.

For added viewing pleasure, here is a “In the Making” video from Airbus:

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