Airbus in talks with Singapore for ultra-long range airplane; “A350-900LR” likely

We believe Airbus is close to launching an “A350-900LR” (Long Range) in response to talks with Singapore Airlines for a longer-range airplane.

July 14, 2015 © Leeham Co. Singapore Airlines is in talks with Airbus and Boeing about an Ultra-Long Haul airplane that can fly from Singapore to the US non-stop.

The talks were first reported by Bloomberg News June 17, during the Paris Air Show.

Singapore discontinued the flights to Los Angeles and Newark when rising fuel prices made operation of the Airbus A340-500 used on the trips uneconomic.

Boeing currently has one airplane capable of service to Los Angeles, the current generation 777-200LR, which has a standard range of 8,665nm but not to Newark which is 8,300nm great-circle without the unpopular Additional Cargo-bay Tanks (ACT), any wind or longer range alternate would exceed the capabilities of 777-200LR in standard config. Los Angeles is 7,560nm from Singapore and when flying west the extra range in the standard 777-200LR would be needed to combat the prevailing westerly winds on the mission.

The Airbus A350-900 has a range of 7,900nm when transporting the same 301 passengers as 777-200LR. Boeing’s forthcoming 777-8X has a planned range of 9,300nm but it’s entry-into-service isn’t planned until around 2022.

Singapore is a 777 Classic operator. It has 70 A350s on order. The 777LR, a generation behind the A350, is a much heavier and thirstier airplane. With the 777-8X at least seven years into the future, and with a large, existing order for the A350-900, Singapore’s only modern choice for an Ultra-Long Haul airplane would be an improved version of the A350-900.

Airbus could achieve the performance of a 777-200LR by increasing the Max Take-Off Weight of the A350-900 from 268t to 280t. This would allow an additional 12 tonnes of fuel to be tanked and according to our model this would extend the range with the passenger load of the 777-200LR to 8,600nm thereby equaling the payload-range performance of Boeing’s long ranger. It would consume 22% less fuel however, 100 tonnes instead of 130.

The increase of Max Take-Off Weight of A350-900 is possible as the extra weight is fuel and this goes into the wings, where it sits close to the lift, thereby causing a minimal increase of loads into the wing and fuselage of the A350. Airbus has seen that there are structural margins in the A350 design, so likely improvements would be constrained to local beefing up of things like brakes to achieve what we like to call an “A350-900LR.”

One other area Airbus would also be looking to change would be the tank size of A350-900. With its standard 138,000 liters it would be on the limit for a 8,600nm mission and with any cabin with less seats or lower load-factor than 100% the aircraft would be fuel limited. We would therefore assume Airbus would include the larger wing tank area from A350-1000 in a “A350-900LR” design. With its 156,000 liters it would give plenty of room for the necessary fuel for Singapore Airlines long range US missions.

Given the launch this year of the A321LR, we think it likely Airbus is preparing to launch an “A350-900LR” version of A350-900. Leeham News and Comment broke the story of the A321LR last October. The program was officially launched the following January.

Bjorn Fehrm contributed to this report.

126 Comments on “Airbus in talks with Singapore for ultra-long range airplane; “A350-900LR” likely

  1. The A350 XWB is the better choice for such missions as the B777X loses a significant amount of attractiveness when not using the 10-abreast economy. For the ultra-long range the cabin width and length of the A350-900 appears the choice for business and premium economy.
    Probably Airbus does currently not use the center wing box tank in the -900. It neither does on the old A330-300, or the A380 (which has an abundance of fuel volume).

    • Hi Schorsh,

      they do use the center wingbox tank for the -900 but the area of the wing they use is smaller than for -1000. We think they will use the -1000 wing-tank configuration, it should be finished in detail design soon and in production, then it is a smaller job to include it in a HGW version of -900.

      Re comfort level, the described 777-200LR 301 seating is 9 abreast in economy so this is with 18.5 inch seats, comfort is comparable to A350-900 on a seat basis. The A350 is quieter however, the 777 is a rather noisy airplane.

      • I agree with you on the noisy B777. I am surprised that more people don’t complain about the noise. I certainly did when I flew in business roundtrip 2 years ago. That is why I prefer the Airbus line of aircraft…much much more quiet and overall comfort.

  2. I knew this would eventually happen! I will be glad to see it materialise.

  3. Will this potential HGW LR version of the A350-900 require the 6 wheel MLG of the -1000?

    • We don’t think so, it is a straight TOW stretch of a std A350-900, this is what makes it so interesting as it avoids all the certification complexity of the original A350-900R proposal which used -1000 wings, engines, MLG etc.

      The 350-900R was more capable, it had a potential 308t TOW but as shown with 777-200LR airlines don’t want more than nominal 8600nm range, I think almost no operator has specified the -200LR with ACTs to get beyond 8600nm.

      • That does make it interesting. I also believe that with an aircraft like this, Airbus will have a fairly complete (and possibly envious) combined single- and twin-aisle line-up.

        • I agree, add progressively the a350-1100 and a380neo and all segments are covered. The 1100 covering shorter missions than the 9x at a substantial CASM saving and the neo trumping it on the longer range stuff and benefitting from that delay necessary to hanging the most fuel efficient engine available on the frame. Quickly we see Airbus covering all slots in the widebody segments with the possible exception of very long and very thin.

          This may make the b777 x start to look like a stop gap product especially if it has significant weight issues as alluded to recently. It also moves the a350 away from the 900 towards larger 1000 and 1100 derivatives which ensures less infighting with the a330 900

          • Sowerbob. I largely agree with one exception: B777 x as a stop gap product. Remember, the 777-9 is still the biggest and most robust solution if the 380 is too big for your needs. Besides that, I hope a 900LR does not eat too many resources from the 350-1100 development.

          • We are not alluding to 777X having “significant” weight issues, what has happened is that the weights have gradually increased mostly as demand by the customers for more performance (e.g. from around 340t to 351t) or as the design matures. The engines have grown gradually larger as a result, a significant step was because a certain hot area needed more power.

            This is not different to other well managed aircraft projects like A350, it grew some 5% in empty weight over the years, this was not labeled as significant, nor should the 777X evolution.

            What we ask ourselves is does it stay at 351t MTOW. The information we do have is engines now at 110klb, that Boeing might need more TOW eventually is speculation on our part.

          • I never quite understand this growth in MTOW from early specs, I stand corrected, thanks Bjorn

          • Here the trail from launch:

            2013; launch year 405 pax+bags to 8400nm, 102klb thrust
            2014;…………………400 pax+bags to 8200nm, 105klb thrust
            2015;…………………413 pax+bags to 8000nm, 110klb thrust

            Example last change in June 2015 with loss of 200nm. 13 more pax means +1.3 tonnes of payload ie decrease in fuel when starting at MTOW. Fuel gain from -200nm is 3.5 tonnes, now where did the other 1.2 tonnes go? Up in smoke?

            With a model one can follow each move and see what is part of the spec change and what is not. There is 5 years left to EIS, this is the trail from the first 3 years, we will see how it all pans out in the end. BTW 777X is not unique in this, good company is A350-1000 among others.

      • So, what about engines? Would 84k still be enough if the MTOW is increased? Or would they even consider using the TrentXWB-97?

        • The 84k version should be OK, A350-900 has a low wingloading as it is the platform which growth in it, therefore lift-off speed even at 280t should be OK, it is only 5t above the certified 275t.

      • thanks for clarifying this! Incredible! However, that makes me think that either the 350-900 is over-engineered or it is the prodigy that can do everything, from the regional variant to the Ultra-Long-Haul.

        I then must wonder, what is the business case left for the 777-8, though.

        • “what is the business case left for the 777-8”

          More revenue? The jet is larger.

      • Isn’t the thread title misleading. According to the body (and other independent news reports), SQ is talking with both manufacturers, and “leaving it up to them” to decide how they get there.

        If SQ wants it to do that ridiculous route, more power to them. They should have bought up a few 777LR to replace the A345 aerial tanker…I mean airliner. And I’m not completely convinced a lot of folks want to sit in an aircraft for that long flight.

        I think many skeptics will see a repeat of their previous situation; a route that will be around for a bit and then disappear. As for being a mix of business, economy and so on? Let’s see how long that lasts before they decide (again) that the only way to do it profitably is via a first/business class heavy configuration. But if they’ve done the numbers, something must work for them.

        • They are seeing the ME3 eat their lunch. SQ wants to be the carrier of choice from US with onwards connections to SE Asia and the Subcontinent. Los Angeles, SFO, Seattle, maybe even Denver and DFW ?
          Its war out there !

        • Indeed, the A345 is a good tanker aircraft. South Korea bought a few lately. The MRTT-330 is a mix of A330-200 fuselage with an A330-500 wing.

          19 hours on an aircraft? Why not. Better than a trip of 24 hours with even more time on aircraft. With good WLAN access and/or entertainment system time will pass.

          Fore sure Singapore Airlines also asked Boeing to provide some pressure to Airbus.

          • The A330 MRTT ( as currently produced ) is a bog standard A330-200 which is only fuel limited on the last couple of miles ( beyond 9150nm or even further out depending on engine PIPs).
            Is the “MRTT upgrade kit” certified flexibly enough to be installed on an A340-500 ?
            Kind of an UberTanker that underperforms due to much more structure 😉

        • I respectfully disagree. If people bought the -8x, which is heavier and bigger for the same range, then the -900LR which is lighter and smaller would be more economical and safer bet for those ultra-long and thin routes. This is a much better preposition than the -8X unless you are Emirates.

        • You’ll be surprised. SQ20 (SIN-LAX) and SQ22 (SIN-EWR) were extremely popular while they lasted, at least in the early days when Executive Economy was available. On my numerous trips on these routes, this cabin was always packed. I couldn’t say the same though after the airline switched to all-Business. Contrary to what you think, there are many who would pay to fly 18 hours ultra-long haul to New York.

  4. In my opinion it would be most logical to take the A350-1000 (wings, tanks, engines, landing gear) as starting point. A shrink similar to the 777LR, retaining the -1000s 308 t (679,000 lb) MTOW.

    As a stop gab SQ could re-introduce A340-500 now the fuel prices are low and attractive lease rates must be available.×540&PM=*

    • I think Leeham has already found out that the 268t mtow wv is the only one currently available and that has around 14000km of range with 325 passengers.

    • It would also only need another 5t certification argumentation. At the time Airbus might not have seen the need for a 280t variant but with that weight it can match the 777-200LR’s performance in the standard version, the version that airlines use. It is a good argument together with 20% less fuel consumption.

  5. The Centre Tank on the -900 is not fully used and there is plenty of space to increase capacity for the LR.

  6. In 2010 Aibus changed their XWB plans. The -1000 was engineered into the -900 until then. However they decided to go for a MTOW boost, in my opinion to facilitate a A350-1100 as future option. Or A350-1000R..

    • Do you mean -1000R as in an ULH variant? If so, I would love to see that happen!

      • Thinking about it, 15 tonnes lower payload (passengers) a big auxilliary fueltank in the long cargo bay, a moderate MTOW increase and we have A350-1000LR. 4-5 additional rows of premium economy.

  7. There is a really good reason why “LR” type plane orders over the last 50+ years have only totalled 255 planes. These planes have to fly out of their “sweet spot” that makes a plane desirable and profitable. Airlines use complicated mathematical formulas when calculating how best to utilize a plane profitably. A plane may be able to fly 80oo + nm but that really means nothing, all it does is allow them to fill the plane with less fuel and add more passengers and more importantly belly cargo. Since the average Long Haul flight is between 4000 nm to 5000 nm which is roughly 75% of all LH travel today, the extra weight available is more often used carrying passengers and more profitable belly freight. Its simple math, the further you fly the less freight and passengers you can carry and flying these marathon 18 – 20 hr flights transforms the plane into nothing more than a flying gas can with a just a few passengers strapped to it that now have to be charged a ridiculous amount just to justify to cost of the trip and hopefully break even. There are only a few routes available (maybe 5) in the entire world that might support this type of operation obviously depending on mostly the cost of fuel.

    Hopefully one day new engine techknowledge will arrive that cuts the travel time in half while increasing efficiency dramatically but until then these “LR” type planes will stay a extremely small niche item and in my opinion remain a waste of time and energy by both Airbus and Boeing.

    • Î agree with your argumentation, this is why it does not make a lot of sense for an OEM to develop a special LR version like the originally proposed A350-900R unless there is a substantial market for it, and you argue there isn’t. But this is no effort to develop something, the base A350-900 has this characteristics in it and it can be brought out with a minor effort.

      Singpore Airlines is in a bit special situation, it is one of the few WW renowned carriers which has a problem to cover all three continents with direct flights from its home base, Changi Airport. Use Great Circle mapper and you will realize that HongKong is OK for direct US flight whereas Singapore is a stretch. SQ’s worst competitor is Cathay and they profit from their location, SQ want to have a few frames that allow them to go direct to US, instead of its customers be forced to a 3-4 hr stop to get there.

      • Yes your points are correct. What I love seeing is the back and forth comments by Airbus and Boeing when they start comparing plane types, “mine is better than yours because..” I can’t wait to see the arguments by both A and B when comparing the 350-900LR to the 777-8. It will be interesting to see them argue over a possible 20 -40 possible orders..


      • which engine will A359LR need?
        84k or 97k or something in between?

      • If the market is only “a few frames”, then presumably other than for bragging rights, the right economic decision for Airbus might be to suggest that Singapore buy a few 777-200LR rather than spend engineering and certification time on a 350-900LR. I’m assuming even a “simple” change as presumed in this article would still cost many tens of millions of Euros (if not more) by the time it got certified.

  8. I think for Singapore the desire to have direct connections to places like NY, SFO and LA goes beyond isolated flight profitability. HKG, DXB and PVG are competing.

    As you notice, apart from their ULH capability, these aircraft provide cargo lift from hot airports (Like SIN, DXB) on 6000NM flights too.

    • Singapore is now a significant tax haven. But they dont do the ‘shell company’ model, as they want international companies to establish major branch offices or the lingo that’s often used , ‘trading hub’
      They are used heavily by companies mining resources in Australia and US internet companies. Good air routes are essential for this type of business as they have staff travelling all the time. I think the desire will be to expand the non stop routes in the US and in spite of the long flight times, is a saving in overall journey time, especially id its mostly for an overnight flight

  9. I’d suppose that the current 4-wheel MLG on the A359 should be able to handle a MTOW of 280 metric tonnes.

    FWIW, the range of SQ’s A340-500s were 8500nm (i.e. non HGW-versions).

    Hence, 8600nm should be enough for an all premium configured A359.

    If SQ goes for this option, I’d be very surprised if they ever ordered the 777-9X.

      • The initial configuration of SQ’s A345s were 72 business class seats (i.e. old Raffles business class seats) and 117 premium economy seats – for a total of 189 seats.

        I’d expect the 280 metric tonnes A359s to have 3 classes: 1st, business and premium economy. In contrast to the SQ’s initial A345 configuration, I’d reckon that the premium economy class would only have around 50 seats – or about 40 percent larger than the premium economy class on their A380s.

        I’m doubtful that standard economy class seats on 18+ hour flights is going to be viable.

      • Then on the other hand, I wonder why they don’t ask for an A380 neo, that should in an ULR configuration have the range and capacity.

        • Maybe because ULH is a premium-heavy niche market, where it would be impossible to fill a A380neo, which would have 300 seats plus even with business and premium economy only?

        • An A359HGW would enable SQ to “re-open” the North America to Singapore non-stop market – and not only to Los Angeles and New York. Then they would increase frequencies, consolidate and build market share. Only then would a seriously upgraded A389NG-LR make sense for SQ. The killer application would be to offer premium economy seating comfort for all economy class passengers on the A389NG-LRs (i.e. all economy class seats would have the same comfort as today’s premium economy seats).

          A380NG concept:

        • The demand for an a380neo does not exist. The aircraft has no airline orders for more than two years and the cancelation of 52 orders is imminent. So except qatar and emirates there is no demand for it

          • @Stathis

            “the cancelation of 52 orders is imminent”

            Sounds like something strategic aero “research” could cook up. LOL!

            As for Emirates and the A380 – I presume that’s who you’re “dreaming” about – it may look as if they’re planning to have as many as 500 A380s in operation at the same time, perhaps as early as the mid 2030s. The new Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central (DWC) will eventually have 10 times as many contact stands for the A380 than what’s available at the giant Concourse A at Dubai International Airport (DXB): 200 vs. 20. Thus it may seem as if the reports of the early death of the A380 are greatly exaggerated.

            Quick Facts about the Expansion Project

            • Five parallel Code F runways of 4.5 km each in length spaced wide apart in order to provide for simultaneous operation.

            • Instrument Landing System (Cat IIIB) which allows operations under low visibility conditions.

            • Two terminal facilities on either side of the airport site, West and East, providing a capacity for over 50 million passengers in total.

            • Four concourses featuring an innovative triple-plus layout 2.8 km long encompassing three nodes, each the size of 7 football fields.

            • Concourses, each with 100 wide body aircraft contact stands and 65 million capacity, totaling over 220 million passengers capacity for the entire airport with over 400 wide body contact stands.

            • Innovative concourse functional design aiming to raise passenger experience to new levels, never before experienced at any airport.

            • A 6 track train system, connecting the airport’s two terminals with its four concourses designed in such a way, that allows the arriving and departing passengers to reach their destinations on a fast travel journey; transferring passengers to circulate between concourses in a set minimum connect time, thus enabling them to board onward connections quickly and comfortably.

            • A massive 8 square km cargo facility area at the South of the airport, supported by the quick cargo transfer facilities.




          • Build it and they will come?

            I’ll believe it when I see it

          • @TransWorld

            Quite a few people seem to be oblivious to the fact that Emirates’ future growth will not be dependent on growth in their DXB to US market segment. 😉

            Bender said he initially marveled at Emirates’ breakneck growth. But then, he said, Clark’s plan for world domination appeared to make sense. “Linking South America to China, or Africa to Asia, is ambitious,” he said, but it remains a good strategy, “given those areas’ projected growth over the next 20 years in terms of people traveling.” And much like its hometown of Dubai, which has catapulted itself to the forefront of world cities, Emirates seems here to stay: “It seems like Fantasyland. But once you sit down and do the numbers, it’s possible.”


  10. First of all i am going to compare the 777-8X and the a350-900R this is been equiped with the engine landing gear wing changes and MTOW of the a350-1000
    What are the diffrences between the 777-8X and the a350-900R ?
    1.The 777-8X can carry 4 more LD3 containers than the a350-900
    2.The 777-8X can carry 3 passengers less than the a350-900 in the 9 abreast seating singapore airlines use.
    3. The 777-8X can fly 9500 nautical miles while the a350-900R can fly 10315 nautical miles

    We conclude that the 777-8X can less passengers and range but more cargo than the a350-900R. Also the a350-900R has the range to fly the auckland-new york route

    • OV-99 I couldn’t reply on your comment so i am writing below it.
      First of all about the 52 orders ?
      1. Air austral 2 planes no demand
      2. Virgin Atlantic 6 planes change in business plan
      3. Transaero 4 planes russian recession
      4. Unidentified customer 10 planes is hong kong airlines no demand
      5. Air France 2 planes no demand
      6. Qantas 8 planes no demand
      7. Amedeo 20 planes no customers
      Secondly about emirates ordering 500 planes. They can propably have a business plan but you can not build a380neo or stretch for one customer. Too risky. I will give an example. Airbus launch the a380-900neo in 2015 dubai airshow. The company order 2225 and option 275. In 2018 the company suffer two a380 accidents. Malaysian airlines senario.And they cancel all a380neo orders. What happens next ?

      • @Stathis

        You wrote; “the cancelation of 52 orders is imminent.”
        Imminent means “likely to occur at any moment“. Why don’t you provide some sources in order to back up your assertion? Will “the cancellation” happen tomorrow, next week, or perhaps next month – or when exactly will it occur?

        For sure, Virgin Atlantic will, in all likelihood, convert it’s A380 orders to either A330neos or A350s. However, claiming that, for example, Qantas will not take delivery of their 8 A380s still on order – presumably based on hearsay – and that a cancellation is “imminent”, isn’t very realistic, is it? The remaining 8 orders were delayed due primarily to the financial difficulties Qantas went through a couple of years back. However, the remaining A380s are, in all likeliohood, required and will replace the 747-400ERs at the back end of the decade. Of course, Qantas may choose to convert the order to upgraded, 2nd generation A380s if those would be available in a reasonable time-frame.

        “Secondly about emirates ordering 500 planes. They can propably have a business plan but you can not build a380neo or stretch for one customer.”

        Emirates is obviously not going to order 500 A380s over night. What I’m talking about is the possibility of EK’s A380 fleet size growing to 500 units some 20 years hence. By the end of the next decade DWC will have 200 contact stands for the A380. The critical aircraft box dimensions will even be increased from 80m x 80m, to 85m x 85m – i.e. large enough for a double stretched, 85m long A380-1000.

        Furthermore, a seriously upgraded A380 and derivative stretch versions will, IMO, very likely garner a lot more orders than what’s been the case for the current version. Repeating ad nauseam that an A380neo, or a more advanced A380NG, will only have one customer, seems to indicate, therefore, that you’ve got more of an agenda to pursue than offering real insight.

        As for your diatribe on what would happen if one, or two EK A380s would crash; it’s interesting to note that the 27 hull losses for the 747, resulting in loss of life, didn’t lead to the flying public refusing to board 747s. Also, trying to compare Emirates with Malaysian Airlines, in a “Malaysian airlines scenario” – sounds more like scaremongering than real insight.

        • Firstly i apologise i used the wrong word. What i meant is that these orders fullfill the requirement to be cancelled. Secondly these orders can be converted to the a350-1000. For instance virgin atlantic and qantas and transaero can use the a350-1000 to have a one to one 747-400 replacement or ecen the a330neo in the case of virgin atlantic.
          Finally malaysian airlines is the perfect example that shows how devastating a double crash can be for an airline. Also i chose the a380 because is the flagship of emirates and is the aircraft that he is know for.

          • Again, I wouldn’t lump Qantas together with Virgin Atlantic and Transaero. Qantas has unique requirements, very different from the other two airlines.

            Even before the mysterious disappearance of MH370 in March of last year, the airline’s parent company Malaysian Airline System (MAS) was in a perilous financial position, perhaps the worst in the region, burning cash at an unsustainable rate. Furthermore, passenger numbers apparently dropped by more than 60 per cent following MAS’ disastrous public relations performance following the “incident”. Thus, comparing MAS with EK – one of the fastest growing and most profitable major international airlines – is ludicrous, at best.

            Again, just like the fact that 27 hull losses for the 747, resulting in loss of life didn’t lead the flying public to refuse boarding 747s – likewise, a hull loss for the a380, resulting in loss of life, would in all likelihood not have much of an impact on the A380 programme.

        • OV99: all the orders Sthais listed are questionable to one degree or another. That’s a fact. AF might someday take theirs, Qantas who knows?

          Amadeus keeps morphing but none sold, that’s a real joke. Airbus could do the same thing and be a leasing company and sell them if that was possible (at a lower cost)

          And the A380 being Too Big to Sell, what makes you think that a stretch to the 900 let alone a pie in the sky 1000 is going to change anyone’s mind?

          It is an amazing aircraft, it does not fit a whole lot of needs and is inflexible and what airlines want is flexibility, ergo the 787s, A330s, A350s and 777s

          • I put at least 38 of those questionable orders as effectively canceled be it Virgins boot down the road or Amadeus is just aren’t going to happen.

            Links to 900 and 1000 A380 concept does not change that.

            The rest are shaky or uncertain and have not been acted on.

          • Firstly what i was trying to say is that the time of the a380 maybe it will never come. The are two reasons for that.
            1. the introduction of the 787 a350 and 777 that they can introduce new non stop route and they have a high enough capacity for many routes.
            2. the future aviation megacities or aerotpolis have started to enlarging or building new their airports in the recent boom. So there is no need for bigger planes a hypothetical 777-10X.
            Also what i want to ask mr/ms TransWorld OV-99 and Keesje if they accept to give their twitter acount to follow you or they the facebook account to make you friends. You can decline the offer if you will of course. I am impressed with your knowledge and i have many questions i would like to ask you

          • With regard to QF and the need for the A380 in replacing their 744ER fleet; with the Australian aviation body CASA relaxing their restrictions on EROPS/ETOPS, Qantas no longer require a 4-engined aircraft over the Southern Ocean to destinations like SCL and JNB, nor for potential ones like EZE and GRU. I don’t see these routes as requiring the capacity of the A388 on a compelling/frequent basis. Lan/Latam already fly non-stop SCL-SYD with 789’s.

    • The 777-8X can fly 9500 nautical miles while the a350-900R can fly 10315 nautical miles

      Airbus spec for a350 900 is 7750nm

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  12. “What are the diffrences between the 777-8X and the a350-900R ?”

    Empty more then 30 tonnes. That is a destructive difference in any comparison. More then all passengers, luggage & a few containers combined.

    • How much would that weight difference save on your fuel bill on a single long haul flight? Or how much fuel do you need to lift off and keep 30 more tons in the air?

    • So the B789 is out completely? If they are just asking for moving about 200 passengers on that flight, why would that model not be an option for Singapore?

  13. How will a 8600nm range A350 serve a 9020nm flight?

    It sounds from the bloomberg article that they want more range than what a 777-8x can give. A350 with 280t MTOW is far from enough for such request.

      • Great circle is only the theoretical minimal distance. The bloomberg article says: “The Newark service was about 16,700 kilometers long” and this article says:
        “the current generation 777-200LR, which has a standard range of 8,665nm but not to Newark which is 9,020nm”.

        Common sense is that when 8665nm is not enough also 8600nm will not be enough…

        • We have corrected that, Great Circle is 8300nm but that does not mean 8600nm is enough, this is nominal range and you shall deduce up to 20% to get a practical range from a nominal one, all depending on the actual cabin configuration and airline operational standards.

          • Thank you Bjorn for clearing that up, I was fumbling with that, I thought there were offset factor (reality vs pure)

        • The cabin configuration is also a part of the range equation. SQ’s A340-500s had a nominal range of 8,650 Nm for 313 passengers, but were able to do the distance configured with fewer passengers.

        • “the current generation 777-200LR, which has a standard range of 8,665nm but not to Newark which is 9,020nm”.

          I think sm and nm are swapped or there are some other strange assumptions here. I have SIN-EWR at 8285 nm and 9534 nm great circle route.
          SIN-EWR was done with an A340-500 which has slightly less range than 777-200LR. The only time I flew it SIN-EWR was flown over Japan, Alaska and Canada and EWR-SIN went straight over London (I saw the Millennium Dome straight below).
          Takeoff from EWR was the only time that an A340 took off “due to the curvature of the earth”: it took more than 45 min to achieve cruising altitude but it would not surprise me if it was more fuel staving strategy than lack of capability. Flight time was 18:45 for both legs.

          One thing to note on the configuration: I believe the flight went from mix business/economy (it was a premium economy seat sold and priced at full fare economy and not sold as premium economy) to full business class in 2007. That was a boom time for the economy and one year later reality hit and a lot of companies reduced travel and reduced entitlements for more expensive flights. Since then, economic reality changed
          In reality, premium economy direct cost me the same as 747 with stopover in FRA. Initially there was $200 surcharge for economy but that was dropped quite early.

          • As in reply to X123 the great circle distance has been corrected. You still can’t make it with a 8600nm aircraft, you need something like 9,300nm aircraft to make it work, ie an 777-8X. But a lot of other destinations in US work for a 8,600nm aircraft.

          • @NdB

            “and EWR-SIN went straight over London (I saw the Millennium Dome straight below).”

            Yes, EWR-SIN often had a flight path over central Europe due to favorable jet stream tail winds.

        • That Bloomberg article is not worth the paper it’s written on.

          The original requirement from Singapore Airlines was to fly 200 passengers LAX-SIN against prevailing winds (Prevailing Westerlies) and a flight time about 18 hours.

          The original A340-500 (i.e. non-HGW version) had a range of 8500nm (still air distance) with a maximum passenger payload of 313 passengers in a typical three-class layout (i.e. no cargo). Thus, SQ’s A345s were more than able to carry 181 passengers in a very spacious cabin in a two- class configuration on non-stop flights between Singapore-LAX/EWR- Singapore.

          Singapore Airlines Flight 21 was the longest regularly scheduled non-stop flight in the world, from 28 June 2004 until it was discontinued on 23 November 2013.[2] It flew from Newark Liberty International Airport to Singapore Changi Airport, covering 9,534 miles (15,343 km) in about 18.5 hours flight time. It was operated by an Airbus A340-500. Flight 21 was scheduled to take off from Newark at 23:00 EDT (11:00 SGT) and land in Singapore at 4:05 SGT (16:05 EDT). Its return flight was Singapore Airlines Flight 22 from Singapore to Newark, which was the second-longest flight in the world, being scheduled to be fifteen minutes shorter due to prevailing high-altitude winds.

          The shortest path between Newark and Singapore was a north/south route over Baffin Island, the North Pole, Siberia and China. However, the flight to Newark deviated from the ideal route via the North Pole in order to take advantage of the favorable jet stream tail winds. Hence, the Newark to Singapore route follows a 15,753** km great circle route within 70 nautical miles (130 km) of the Geographic North Pole, while the Singapore to Newark flights traveled via Japan and Alaska. On the leg to Newark, the actual route therefore had an initial north-east heading, rather than straight north. The shortest distance between Newark and Singapore via the North Pole is 15,345 kilometres* (9,535 mi).

          * 15,345 km = 9535 miles (statute) = 8286 nm
          ** 15,753 km = 9788 miles (statute) = 8506 nm

          NB: I’d expect SQ to put less seats on 280 metric tonne configured A359s than what they did on their original A345s.

  14. I know this is a bit of a schoolboy question,but I’ll ask anyway.How does the fuel use compare ,carrying the fuel for a very long flight,or stopping and having to take off twice?

    • I did a quick check, seems one gains 8% in fuel burn by dividing in two legs of 4,300nm instead of one 8,600nm.

      • It is very rare to find an appropriate airport right in the middle of a great circle or without a deviation of a great circle. So the 8 % are the best case scenario.

        For Singapore many stops in the middle would end somewhere within Russia.

        • In case of two flights, much greater payload can also be lifted even though with one more landing/takeoff with not-direct route and holding time, fuel saving may not be much. There will also be one more cycle in maintenance records, more duty time, airport charges. So calculation is little complicated than just comparing fuel use.

          I guess with more fuel efficient aircraft there will be a time when direct will always be better even for ULH, may be further 20% more than latest technology.

  15. Pingback: » Daily Aviation Brief – 15/07/2015

  16. With due respect to the authors, we may be jumping the gun. While the A359 seems like the most logical choice, the decision made by the ceo for SQ may involve more variables.

    By now we can all agree that the A350 has made a successful EIS with minimal complications. However, while that’s great, the time when a blue chip customer can obtain a yet to be designed but desirable aircraft is the question. Yes, the 778 has 7 years until it will make its debut but in it you know that it has the legs for your routes. Do we have any idea when a plane of this magnitude could be made available and is Airbus going to succumb to designing a plane that only one customer is showing interest in? 1.

    I’m not familiar when the A350 ramp up is supposed to take place but and if they’ll have the combined resources to 1) complete the A330 NEO models on time for certification, 2) implement the A350 ramp up to coax my orders, 3) NEO the A380 and 4) decide if stretching the A35J into a larger derivative is a wise business decision in order to compete with the 779.

    • Looks like it is only a 5 tonne bump from the maximum currently certified MTOW, I don’t see it as big job, it could even be there already as a way to protect themselves from missing performance commitments…

  17. “4) decide if stretching the A35J into a larger derivative is a wise business decision in order to compete with the 779.”

    That could/ would be combined if a A350-1000LR / -1100 is on the agenda. Fuselage lenght being the biggest difference, like 777-200LR/300ER.

  18. A 8600nm A350 may be inadequate for Singapore-U.S west coast with a typical cabin layout as winds would mean little or no cargo can be lifted in at least one direction. It does becomes a viable concept if SQ does not see the need for substantial cargo revenue on these routes. The a350-900lr could also potentially make South India-U.S non stops economically viable. I guess we will know soon enough if Airbus is going ahead with a launch.

    • I’m not sure I see a big market for people willing to pay the required premium for ultra long haul non-stop travel between south India and the US. This is generally seen as a very price-sensitive market.

  19. I’m not an expert, but I could believe NY-SIN directly is not a key cargo market. The price you pay to get that container 4-6 hours faster might be high, in the total door to door logistic chain / delivery time.

  20. Stretch the A35J legs? They can’t seem to sell many 1000’s as is. The A359 is functionally a family of one (a very good one I’d add). It would make sense to offer another version that could complement it I suppose. Really, most aircraft wide body models have only two versions sell in size able numbers (I’d define as two models that account for over 80% or so of net frames).

    I’m not sure Airbus has figured out what to do to the 359 yet to really complement it.

  21. Breaking news :Re 747/800 Flutter Returns
    A warning today was issued by Boeing about flutter on the 747/800 pas/f with a warning of the aircraft breaking upon load stresses requiring repairs of $400,000 per aircraft.

    • Not really, FAA just mandated Boeing´s fix from last year, no news type news

      • It’s like the A380 “wing cracks” the problem, the costs implications (ground time) can be significant. Is this the slow wing oscillation 747-8 thing with the brilliant FBW solution? It could be the FA demands some hardware solution after all. Won’t make the aircraft lighter..

        The Airbus / Boeing camps are always trying to play these issue down with everything they have. 😀

        • keeseje: We often disagree but you are spot on.

          I am still in the wait and see attitude on the A380 wing, why did it not occur during testing?

          Ergo, it may be worse or they may have solved it, but only time will tell.

          I don’t think the 747 thing is a serious issue, and 400k for aircraft that cost 200 million? A new piece of electronic equipment cost that much (exaggerating but you know what I mean) Peanuts.

          Same thing though, stay tuned

          • Is this the self same oscillation issue associated with the aft mounted fuel tanks?

  22. Wow, 77 comments on this topic so far, must be a record for this site. Looks like this topic touched a nerve with lots of people…interesting.

    • @Tim, we’ve had posts with well over 100 comments…

      • Every you mention anythingthing just a thought about the a380 or a380neo and the comments are 100 minimum 120 normal. You should consider opening a site about the a380 also i think you should make a complete in depth analysis complete with all and diffrent fuel prices also giving us an idea how much PIPs can reduce fuel consumption OR i beeging you to open your a380 articles PLEASE!!!!

    • Just mention a380 neo,and we’ll soon have it over the 100 mark.

      • True! And we all says the same thing over and over.! Guilty as well

  23. So Airbus come out with the mythical A350-900 LR

    Boeing offers up the current 777-200LR at bargain prices (aka A330CEO and or offers a simple 777NEO.

    Might be quite interesting.

  24. Hi Bjorn,

    What exactly is it about the A350-1000 that allows it to tank more fuel than the -900? I know the -1000 has a slightly bigger wing area by way of trailing edge extensions but where do they find the space for more fuel? Does it go into the extension?

    • The fuel goes in the wingbox and there is no difference in the size of these between -900 and -1000. The -1000 has a larger rear overhang called the trailing edge but the wingboxes are the same (a few layers more of CFTP on the -1000 wingbox structure as it carries higher loads but physical dimension are the same). The least popular part of a wingbox for fuel is the central part, the reason is that you want your fuel to be to the maximum extent in the wings where the weight of the fuel is close to the lift, therefore you have less bending moments in the wing.

      When you don’t need the full capacity of the full wingbox you either don’t use it at all (A330-300 until the 242t version) or only in part, A350-900. So the -1000 simply uses the center wingbox to a larger degree, it was not needed until the High Gross Weight version of -900, the LR, then they changed the internals of the wingbox to the -1000 variant.

      • Thanks Bjorn.

        So, if I have it right…

        …externally, the -900LR should look exactly like any other regular -900 (i.e. no need for the -1000 wheels and wing trailing edge extensions). And aside from local structural strengthening, it is only the internal centre wingbox modification a la -1000 to tank more fuel that is required to turn it into an ULH machine. That’s impressive!

      • Oh, one more thing,

        What is the situation with regards to engine thrust on the LR? Same TXWB-84 but with a little more thrust?

        • I did a quick check with our model, it should be on the limit but still acceptable. On the other hand Rolls-Royce designed the engine to be stretched to 93klb for A350-1000 mk1 so a bit more thrust should be possible if SQ and Airbus asked for it.

  25. Extra tanks in the 787-9 is possible as well. In a sparse payload of 120 seats and little cargo, I imagine it has a pretty good range for any airline that would ask for it to be built.

  26. I´ve been waiting two days for somebody to mention the ME3, but it hasn´t happened yet, so hear goes.

    ME3 are B778 customers and if they want to do Latin America well, which seems to be on their plans right now, they will need ULR aircraft, hence the importance of the 777-X to them. A359-900LR won´t replace the B778, but it would serve as a much more economical development tool and thinner route aircraft. The possibility of getting a smaller LR aircraft as part of a large fleet will be one argument not lost on Tim Clark in the 350/787 competition.

  27. I knew it!!!! This as been on the books for a long time….it has been on the RR website and Wiki for a couple of years. Excellent move and makes competition with the -8X and 787-9 even more interesting. This aircraft is ready to go once the -1000 is assembled as it will use its engines, wing modifications, landing gear, and wing box.

    It will have an estimated range of 10,350 nmi and fly from London to Auckland (source Wiki).

  28. So this could be a basic A350-900 with center wing box modification to tank more fuel, range up to ±8600nm and potential for thrust to be bumped up to 93klb. As I mentioned previously, I would be glad to see this happen.

    I am from South Africa and I believe this could be an absolute blessing for SAA. Perfect size, efficiency and range.

    What I am interested to know but cannot calculate myself is this aircrafts realistic capabilities.
    1. What is the load it could carry on routes between JNB and USA, Far East Asia, etc?
    2. What load could it carry on DXB-LAX (since this is usually the route by which EK -arguably the biggest ULH operator around – judges ULH capability)?
    3. How does all of this compare to the B777-8?
    4. Could it run into tyre speed limits like the B777-200LR does on routes out of JNB?

    I would really appreciate it if some of you more knowledgeable posters could weigh in on these questions I have?

    • I will analyze the -900LR more in depth in an article Monday answering most of your questions but as it in our analysis series it will require subscription.

      • It would be very kind to mention the expected range in the header.

        Is the A350 the next hate object? The A380 is hated some people because its bigger than the 747 and nearly killed the former Queen of the Skys. Now the A350-900R takes on the 777-200 / 777-8X.

  29. Unless I am wrong, the 772LR is not a shortened 773ER, but a 772 fitted with the reinforced and extended wing and bigger engines of the latter.
    Hence the 20T difference in OEW between the 2 versions : it would be far less if the 772LR was a shortened version.

  30. Could you all perhaps also comment on the ETOPS issues in connection with flights from Australia/New Zealand to South America or South Africa?

    • LAN Chile uses 787-9 for non stop service Auckland- Santiago, Air NZ is planning non stop Auckland Buenos Aries with 777-200ER.
      Previously LAN and Aerolinas used A340 on their respective routes.
      Qantas goes Sydney-Santiago with 747-400ER

      South Africa from Sydney is 747-400ER, hot and high at Jo’burg makes this a 4 engine route. SAA flies only with A340 to Perth Western Australia

  31. I wonder what the ME3 appetitie for this
    plane will be.

  32. According to your article, you “believe Airbus is close to launching an “A350-900LR” in response to talks with Singapore Airlines for a longer-range plane”. But you never mentioned even one unconfirmed report or an anonymous source (either from Airbus or Singapore Airlines) suggesting that Airbus will soon launch the “A350-900LR” (you even had to come up with the aircraft name). With respect to Leeham News analysts, the whole article seems rather suggestive and preemptive and maybe a little prophetic.

    Anyway, are you seriously suggesting that Airbus should build the “A350-900LR” just because Singapore Airlines has shown interest in an ULH aircraft? Remember that they are also in talks with Boeing for the same kind of aircraft. How many of these frames do you think Singapore Airlines will order (considering the fact that they operate only a couple of ULH flights) and how many more airlines do you think will be interested?

    According to your analysis, with the standard range of 8,665nm, the Boeing 777-200LR will have problem doing Singapore-Newark service due to wind or longer range alternate. Doesn’t that suggest that with the MTOW of 280t and a range of 8,600nm, the “A350-900LR” will also have problem doing Singapore-Newark runs?

    The ULH is a niche which not many airlines and even passengers want to do. And the few airlines which are interested in ULH flights have already ordered or committed to the Boeing 777-8X. I don’t see a business case for the “A350-900LR” unless the airlines who already ordered Boeing 777-8X will cancel and then order the A350-900LR, and that is not likely going to happen.

    The only true solution to ULH travel is to develop a fuel-efficient supersonic aircraft. Maybe Airbus should start thinking of that instead of ‘singaporizing’ the A350-900.

    • Your comment provides a nice alternative point of view/counter-programming to much of what has been discussed thus far. It’s always great to have that!

      I agree on many of your points.

      The airlines most committed to ULH are no doubt the ME3 and they have already committed to the 777-8. Obviously they could cancel but will they? Aside from these airlines there aren’t that many who are interested in pursuing such flights. Maybe AC, DL, SA could be candidates. Maybe the aircraft will be efficient enough to find a home with airlines who would never have considered such routes otherwise.

      But then we have to ask (I love the A350 and this concept but I can’t shake this thought) is it possible that this aircraft is SO good? Although ideal, I do not think we can just assume that it will have amazing range, world beating economics, be tens of tons lighter than the 777-8 and be as easy as just activating a center tank, bumping up MTOW by 12t and maybe increasing thrust…

      • From what I can see, the LR leeham is describing is pretty much a low hanging fruit. So it probably should not cost that much more effort than what Airbus had to do turn the regular A330-300 into the longer ranged 242T HGW version using the tank configuration of the A330-200.

    • @Mario

      As with some of our stuff we publish, we often know more than we can say for a number of reasons. Just stay tuned.

      • Hi Bjorn, I have no reason not to believe you. However, considering prevailing winds and other factors, the A350-900LR at 8600nm, will not have enough range to satisfy Singapore Airlines ULH demands especially with respect to Singapore-Newark runs.
        Don’t you think Airbus should push up the range to at least 9,000nm?

    • Obviously not that committed … Singapore obviously not interested in the -8x. Watch out for players like Turkish, Aeroflot, Thai, Phllipnes, Garuda, and even Delta or United.

  33. I don’t understand the fuzz and doubts about an A350-LR and prior commitments to the -8. ditched cancelled A359’s then to turn around and order even more that the original order. Emirates cancelled all the A350 presumably because the 787-10 was announced but now is also reconsidering.

    Fact is that people chamge their minds and cancel comitments when more economical solutions knockout not the door.

    From what I’m reading, it sounds like the 900LR will pose a serious threat to the 8x unless you have to haul all that extra cargo over long distances. It is smaller, lighter, and clearly better suited for less popular, long, and thin routes.

  34. Late,but hopefully not too late!

    Why has Airbus never thought of making an ULH-Version out of the 330-200( or even A 330-300)? It would have been easy,too! Increase the MTOW to 275 tonnes,enlarge the fuel volume from 139.000 l to 155.000 litres and add the cyclops middle landing gear.Basically create an A340-200 with two engines only.It could have been done ten years ago!

  35. I think Airbus better build on the A350-1000 for their long range requirements. Increasing MTOW to 325 tonnes, adding an auxilliary fuel tank and a 240 seat cabin would still be way lighter and more efficient than a 777-8X.

    I think we can skip the 772LR for SQ. They had all opportunities and the sister -300ER in service. Apparently there is something that prevented them ordering it, while they were looking to replace the A340-500. They had 10 yrs to do so.

    How the 772LR single engine take-off performance close to MTOW from SIN on a hot day? EGT limits, thin air & high speeds. ETOPS related diversions / extra fuel also comes in when you really go over the Northpole.

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