by Gavin Haines, The Telegraph, September 26, 2018
Aviation anoraks are aflutter at the news Singapore Airlines has taken order of the very first Airbus A350-900 ULR, which is set to be used on the world’s longest non-stop flight.
What is it?
“A new chapter in non-stop air travel,” according to Airbus CEO, Tom Enders. Hyperbole? Not so much. The A350-900 ULR will be used by Singapore Airlines on what is about to become the new longest non-stop flight.
Airbus claims the ultra long-range, twin-engine aircraft has a maximum range of 9,700 nautical miles and can fly for up to 20 hours non-stop. The ULR is a modified version of the A350-900, which was launched in 2005.
The A350-900 can carry 325 passengers in a standard three-class configuration. Airbus claims the jet’s design makes journeys more comfortable thanks to higher ceilings, larger windows, quieter cabins and mood lighting.
Where will it fly?
Singapore Airlines says it will use the aircraft on its new non-stop service between Singapore and New York, which will be the world’s longest flight when it launches on October 11.
The journey is expected to clock in at 19 hours, which is long enough to watch the aviation film, Sully: Miracle on the Hudson, 11 and a bit times.
The carrier already uses the A350-900 on its 8,446-mile Singapore to San Francisco route, which, at 17 hours 15 minutes long, is currently the world’s seventh longest flight.
What’s the competition?
Boeing is also playing the long game with its 777-200 LR. The aircraft is currently used on Qatar Airways’ Doha to Auckland service, which, at 9,032 miles, is the world’s longest flight for now.
Delta also uses the plane on its 8,439-mile schlep between Atlanta and Johannesburg route, the eighth longest non-stop service.
Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner was also designed with distance in mind. The manufacturer claims it is 20 per cent more fuel efficient than the 767, which it was intended to replace. This theoretically means it can fly 20 per cent further.
As Boeing and Airbus compete to go the extra mile, a new era for long-haul looks like it could be upon us. Qantas is keen to be at the forefront of this revolution and recently announced plans to launch a non-stop service between London and Sydney in 2022.
The carrier had challenged Boeing and Airbus to design an aircraft suitable for the journey as part of a programme called Project Sunrise.
“We’re now comfortable that we think we have vehicles that could do it,” the carrier said in a statement.
Qantas is understood to be weighing up variations of two models – the Airbus A350 and Boeing’s 777X – for the job of carrying 300 passengers half way across the planet. More details are expected in due course.
The 10,573-mile flight would exceed the distance flown on Qantas’ current longest non-stop service between London and Perth – a 8,991-mile slog which takes around 17 hours.
Another aircraft promising to revolutionise long-haul air travel is the Airbus A321 LR, which the manufacturer says will be the world’s widest single-aisle plane. The jet completed its maiden voyage earlier this year and Airbus reckons it will usher in a new era of low-cost long-haul air travel.
Will passengers buy into ultra long-haul?
That remains to be seen, but Qantas reckons the early signs are promising. According to the carrier its epic Heathrow to Perth route, which launched in March, has proven a success, with a spokesperson claiming the route is “definitely exceeding our expectations.”