Airbus has rolled out the first ultra-long range variant of the A350 XWB, which is due to enter service later this year with Singapore Airlines. Following final assembly of the airframe (c/n 216) in Toulouse, the jet has been moved to an outdoor station for extensive ground tests prior to the installation of its Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. Once this has been completed it will undergo a short flight test programme to certify the modifications not featured on the standard A350-900.
Changes include a different fuel system, which increases capacity by 24,000 litres (5,279 imp gal) without the need for additional tanks. Airbus has also made aerodynamic improvements, including fitting extended winglets, to enhance performance.
The A350ULR has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 280 tonnes and is capable of flying up to 9,700 nautical miles (17,964km) or over 20 hours non-stop. Airbus says the aircraft will combine “the highest levels of passenger and crew comfort with unbeatable economics for such distances”.
Singapore Airlines has seven examples on order, which it plans to use on non-stop services to the US, including reinstating the world’s longest commercial flight between Singapore and New York. The airline previously served the route with an A340-500 in all-Business Class configuration but discontinued it in November 2013 because of rising fuel costs. The carrier is a key A350 customer, ordering a total of 67 -900s, of which it has already taken delivery of 21.