Longest-range airliner

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The initial Airbus A350-900ULR (Ultra-Long-Range) variant, Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) A350-941 msn 216 (9V registration to be confirmed), left the Toulouse final assembly line early in March. The A350-900ULR is set to have the longest range of any commercial airliner currently in production, at 9,700 nautical miles (17,964km), edging the 8,555 nautical miles (15,843km) capability Boeing lists for the 777-200LR Worldliner variant, which holds the current furthest-range record.

This initial A350-900ULR is the first of seven aircraft from SIA’s total commitment for 67 A350- 900s, which will be delivered in A350-900ULR configuration. After the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-84 engines have been installed and ground testing completed, the aircraft will undertake a short flight test programme to certify the key changes from the standard A350- 900 that give the variant its longhaul capabilities.

These differences are a modified fuel system that increases fuel capacity by 24,000 litres (6,430 US gallons) to 165,000 litres (43,588 US gallons) from the standard 141,000 litres (37,248 US gallons) and extended winglets to optimise efficiency. The A350-900ULR will also have an increased maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 280,000kg (619,279lb), up from the baseline aircraft’s 275,000kg (606,272lb) MTOW.

SIA is to use the small subfleet of A350-900ULRs to reopen lapsed services from Singapore to the United States, the first of which will be the 8,700 nautical miles (6,112km) route to New York JFK, a flight the airline previously operated with now retired A340-500s starting in 2004. The carrier axed the route in 2013 after sluggish customer demand and rising fuel costs made the quad-jet A340 increasingly uneconomical to operate. SIA says rebounding passenger demand and the A350-900ULR’s twin-engine operating economics compared to the A340 make it cost-effective to operate the route once again.