Written by: Tomos Howells

MIAMI — Airbus has announced that its first A350 XWB Ultra Long Range aircraft has come off the production line.

The aircraft has now been moved to an Airbus outdoor testing facility where it will undergo a thorough ground test before the installation of the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines and eventual flight testing campaign.

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This new A350 variant is capable of carrying an additional capacity of 24,000 liters of fuel without the need for additional fuel tanks.

One of the key points of these tests will be to check the efficiency of the new, improved winglets, which have been extended along with other subtle changes, such as the new Rolls-Royce Trent engine to increase the efficiency of the aircraft by 25%, with reductions in fuel burn and emissions.

The Asian-based carrier, Singapore Airlines, plans to use the aircraft on their direct service from Singapore to the United States, a flight which has been recorded at 17 hours with previous planes, such as the Airbus A340-500.

This area of the market is currently controlled extensively by the 787 Dreamliner and the Boeing 777-200LR.

Airbus said that the A350 XWB ULR is capable of flying 9,700 nautical miles with a Maximum Take-off Weight (MTOW) of 280 tonnes, giving it an additional range of 1,145 nautical miles over the 777-200LR, without sacrificing comfort or passenger numbers.

Many airlines that operated the A340-500/600 and Boeing 747-400 made the change to the 777-300ER due to its reduced costs from only having two engines and its range capability.

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Up until now the A350-1000 and the A340-600 have been the only competitors within the range factor for this aircraft so it will be interesting to see how the market changes if Singapore Airlines is successful with this new variant as a launch customer.

Airbus said that the A350 XWB Family had recorded 854 firm order for the Airbus A350XWB from 45 customers around. Singapore is one the of their largest customers for the aircraft family with a total of 67 A350-900s on order including the seven of the A350XWB ULR variants.

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The carrier has had 21 of these planes already delivered. Airbus said the A350 XWB ULR is still currently on track to be delivered Singapore Airlines later this year.

Only time will tell how successful the variant will be as with Boeing still yet to show a working model of the 777X we could see Airbus begin to fill in a gap in the market, as some airline begin to retire their aging fleet of 777-200LR’s.