Airbus has unveiled its first ultra-long-range A350 XWB, the plane that will fly the longest commercial route for Singapore Airlines.
The A350 XWB has been rolled out of the paintshop in the airline's livery. Now at an advanced stage of production, the aircraft will undergo further testing before being delivered to the airline before its inaugural Singapore-New York flight in October.
The ultra-long-range A350-900 is the latest variant of the A350 family, and will have an extended range of up to 9700 nautical miles, nearly 18,000km.
The flight from Singapore to New York will cover about 16,700km and take up to 18h 45m. It will eclipse the current longest flight, Auckland to Doha which is 14,540km and uses a Boeing 777-200LR.
The new Airbus, rolled out in Toulouse overnight, has a modified fuel system, which increases the aircraft's fuel-carrying capacity by 24,000 litres without the need for additional fuel tanks.
Singapore Airlines has ordered seven A350-900ULRs, and all of them are in various stages of assembly. The first aircraft to have flown has successfully completed its flight test programme, which focused on the redesigned fuel system. It is now being fitted with its cabin.
The airline will have 67 business-class seats and 94 premium-economy seats, about half the number of seats in standard three-seat configuration.
With a maximum take-off weight of 280 tonnes, the new plane is capable of flying more than 20 hours non-stop.
With the new A350, passengers will have added benefits that were not found on the A340-500, including higher ceilings, larger windows, an extra-wide body and specialised lighting designed to reduce jet lag.
The aircraft is made of 53 per cent carbon composite and its strength allows the cabin to be pressurised to an optimal altitude with more comfortable humidity levels.
Between 2003 and 2013 Singapore Airlines flew an A340-500 on the route. It became a 100-seat business-class-only plane by the time the service was canned when the economics of the less efficient older plane didn't add up
The new service to Newark Liberty International Airport will initially be three times a week, departing Singapore on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, before moving to daily operations from October 18 after an additional A350-900ULR aircraft enters service.
Singapore Airlines currently has 21 A350-900s in its fleet, with 46 more on order including seven of the ULR variant.