Singapore Airlines (SIA) has selected Airbus’ newly launched Ultra-Long Range version of the A350-900 for non-stop flights to the US. Under an amendment to the carrier’s existing order for 63 A350-900s, seven of the aircraft will now be delivered with an Ultra-Long Range capability for flights of up to 19 hours. In addition, the carrier has placed an additional order for four A350-900s, taking its total firm orders for the A350 XWB Family to 67.
Optimised for non-stop flights to the US, the aircraft, designated A350-900ULR (Ultra-Long Range), will include a modified fuel system to increase the fuel carrying capacity, an increase in Maximum Take-Off Weight, plus aerodynamic improvements, enabling service to the US West Coast, as well as to New York.
Representing a distance of some 8,700 nautical miles, the New York service will be the world’s longest commercial passenger route, with an expected flight time of up to 19 hours. Moreover, the unique flexibility offered by the A350 XWB allows operators to reconfigure their A350-900ULR to the standard long-haul A350-900 specification should they require it.
“Our customers have been asking us to re-start non-stop Singapore-US flights and we are pleased that Airbus was able to offer the right aircraft to do so in a commercially viable manner,” said Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong. “This is another example of how we strive to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations by remaining at the forefront of product and service innovation in our industry. It will also further strengthen the Singapore hub by providing the fastest and most convenient air connectivity between North America and Southeast Asia.”
“We are excited to be working with Singapore Airlines to re-launch its premium non-stop service to the US,” said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President & CEO. “The A350 is the perfect, flexible platform for such operations, offering unrivalled operating economics for the very longest routes. And the wider and quieter cabin will provide the perfect environment for passengers to enjoy the world-famous Singapore Airlines in-flight product.”
The all-new A350 XWB entered commercial service earlier this year and features the latest aerodynamic design, carbon fibre fuselage and wings, plus fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. Together, these latest technologies translate into unrivalled levels of operational efficiency, with a 25 per cent reduction in fuel burn and emissions, and significantly lower maintenance costs.
To date, Airbus has recorded a total of 783 firm orders for the A350 XWB from 41 customers worldwide, already making it one of the most successful widebody aircraft ever. Singapore Airlines is the largest customer for the A350 XWB in East Asia, with deliveries of its 67 aircraft now on order starting in the first quarter of 2016. Deliveries of the carrier’s A350-900ULR aircraft are scheduled to take place in 2018.
The A350-900ULR incorporates a number of necessary changes over the standard A350-900. These include a higher capacity fuel system within the existing fuel tanks, increasing fuel carrying capacity from 141,000 litres to 165,000 litres.
The A350-900ULR has an MTOW of 280 tonnes. The extended range capability is achieved without installation of additional fuel tanks and the aircraft can be reconfigured easily to the standard A350-900 long haul specification.
Singapore Airlines previously operated non-stop services from its home base to New York and Los Angeles between 2004 and 2013 using the A340-500.
Finnair has taken delivery in Toulouse of the first of 19 A350 XWBs on order, thus becoming the first European operator and the third worldwide of the all-new airliner. The aircraft is configured in a premium three-class layout, with 297 seats, comprising 46 Business Class, 43 Economy Comfort and 208 Economy.
Finnair will commence commercial services with the A350 XWB later this week, with a European tour starting at Amsterdam and Oslo on October 9th. Furthermore, on the 21st of November 2015, non-stop long-haul A350 XWB flights will start from Helsinki to Shanghai. The aircraft will join the airline’s all-Airbus fleet of 45 aircraft in operation, today comprising 30 A320 Family aircraft and 15 A330/A340s.
“Finnair has enjoyed a long and prosperous working relationship with Airbus and the A350 takes our cooperation to another level. This aircraft is the future of flying and will give our passengers a completely new and enhanced travel experience,” says Finnair CEO, Pekka Vauramo.
“At Airbus, we’re proud and delighted to see Finnair, one of the world’s longest-standing and most respected airlines, become the first European carrier to fly the A350 XWB,” said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President and CEO. “The A350 XWB’s unrivalled fuel efficiency and passenger comfort make it the perfect aircraft to spearhead Finnair’s Asian expansion.”
Eric Schulz, President – Civil Large Engines, Rolls-Royce, said: “We are very proud to be with Finnair and Airbus today to mark another chapter in the A350 XWB story. The Trent XWB exemplifies how we take the best in technology to deliver new standards of excellence. Today marks the start of a new era in our relationship with Finnair and we look forward to working with them for many years to come.”
The world’s latest generation airliner, the A350 XWB, is the newest member of Airbus’ modern, comfortable & efficient wide-body product family. Offering customers a game-changing reduction in fuel-burn, the long-range A350 XWB features the most modern aerodynamic design, carbon fibre fuselage and wings, plus new fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. Together, these cutting-edge technologies translate into unrivalled levels of operational efficiency, with a 25 per cent reduction in fuel burn and emissions, and significantly lower maintenance costs. For passengers, it brings new levels of in-flight comfort, with an extra-wide cabin offering more personal space in all classes, including 18 inch wide seats as standard in economy class.
To date, Airbus has recorded a total of 783 firm orders for the A350 XWB from 41 customers worldwide, already making it one of the most successful widebody aircraft ever.
Airbus has reached the final stages of regulatory reviews over a plan to use lithium ion batteries for backup and starting power on the A350-900, says executive vice-president of engineering Charles Champion.
But well-publicised safety problems with lithium ion batteries on the Boeing 787-8 and other aircraft have stretched out the regulatory review process.
“We might have to do a few more tests because authorities are extremely nervous on the subject because of the Boeing 787,” Champion says.
Airbus already has decided to make one design change to the original lithium ion battery system for the A350-900.
The original design allowed power to flow between the batteries, but that raised concerns that one
overheating battery could cause another to fail.
“So we put in a non-return valve so that if it blows out, it doesn’t go back in the other battery,” Champion says.
Airbus also is still trying to persuade regulators that it is safe to install such powerful lithium ion batteries inside an aircraft without enclosing them inside a heavy stainless steel box, which Champion likens to a “huge coffin”.
Weight savings is one of the key advantages gained by switching to lithium ion batteries, so Airbus hopes to install the batteries using an enclosure made of lighter materials than stainless steel.
“If you start to put a huge coffin around the battery system in place then you lose all the benefit of the lithium ion battery,” Champion says.
But two battery fires on the 787-8 in January 2013 led the US Federal Aviation Administration to ground the fleet for four months. The grounding was lifted only after proving that a redesigned installation could prevent such a fire from causing damage to the aircraft.
One of the changes that Boeing made was to switch from a lighter aluminium enclosure for the two batteries to a stainless steel box.
Such heavier enclosures are common with older, nickel-cadmium batteries, due to lessons learned from a series of in-flight fires on aircraft when the industry transitioned from lead-acid batteries in the early 1970s.
The FAA allowed Boeing to introduce the 787-8 with an aluminium battery enclosure because certification testing appeared to prove that its lithium ion design met safety standards. But the FAA and Boeing concluded after the battery fires that those certification tests were inadequate for making such claims.
Airbus, however, remains confident that the lithium ion battery design for the A350-900 was always safer than Boeing’s original system for the 787-8, Champion says.
Boeing’s design includes two GS Yuasa-made batteries with eight 3.7V-cells each, storing a total of 72Ah of electrical power per battery.
Airbus took a more conservative design approach with the A350-900, selecting four Saft-made batteries with 14 3.6V-cells each, storing a total 45Ah of power, according to specifications released by Saft at a trade show last year. Airbus also selected Saft to supply the battery and the battery charging unit, unlike Boeing’s approach that divided the system between GS Yuasa and Meggitt Securaplane.
“We are rather confident with our system because we have a different architecture than Boeing,” Champion says.