The first A350-900 ULR flew home to Singapore on Saturday. The routing it took was rather less than ordinary. A direct flight from Toulouse to Singapore runs just over 12 hours, heading east from France and crossing Turkey, Iran and India along the way. This trip, however, lasted more than 16 hours and included a visit to the North Pole.
Airbus provided an explanation for the unique delivery routing, “The aircraft is taking an extended route on its delivery flight to enable the airline to undertake performance checks.”
Hi Seth, the aircraft is taking an extended route on its delivery flight to enable the airline to undertake performance checks.
— Airbus (@Airbus) September 22, 2018
The premium-heavy configuration will soon serve Singapore Airlines’ nonstop service to Newark and it wasted little time in testing its ultra long haul capabilities. With less than three weeks between delivery and entry into service the airline has little slack in the schedule for putting the plane through its paces. Yes, it is mostly similar to the A350-900s that the carrier already flies, but there are a few differences. And when better to start pressing the long range capabilities of the aircraft than on a flight that was already going to be reasonably long? Adding four hours to a delivery flight has to be more convenient than adding 16 hours to the schedule at another point in time.
It is common for aircraft to enter commercial service quickly after delivery. Some airlines will perform after-market hardware installations or reconfiguration of the interior (e.g. wifi installation or entertainment system upgrades) while others simply had the plane off to operations for a passenger flight. In one recent case Air Baltic took delivery of a CS300 (now A220-300) and had it serving travelers less than an hour after it first arrived at the carrier’s hub in Riga.
Singapore Airlines is slated to take delivery of six more A350 ULRs in the near future. The planes will serve Newark and Los Angeles as well as allow the carrier to increase service on the San Francisco nonstop route. The aircraft is designed to fly up to 20 hours. Flights to Newark, soon to be the longest nonstop route in the world, are blocked at 18:45. Even with this detour on the way home the plane has capacity for significantly more range.