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.