In 2004, an Airbus A340-500 made history by flying the longest route in the world from Singapore to Los Angeles non-stop. The trip took 14 hours and 40 minutes to complete, flying 14,093 km. This route was also the predecessor of the Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to New York, which still holds the title of the longest flight in the world. Here’s how the Airbus A340-500 opened the door to the longest routes in the world.
All about reach
The A340-500 is the long-range variant of the A340 family , offering an unprecedented range to open new routes for airlines. With a range of 9,000 nautical miles (16,668 km / 10357 miles), the aircraft had a longer range than competitor 777-200LR (8,555 nautical miles). The A340-500’s reach opened new routes at the time, including a direct connection between Perth and London .
To achieve this range, Airbus had to modify parts of the A340-500, including adding new fuel tanks and stretching the fuselage and wings. The plane could carry a massive 50% more fuel than the A340-300 and seated up to 313 passengers (although a lower capacity is needed to maximize the aircraft range).
Stay informed: Subscribe to our daily aviation news bulletin.
The A340-500’s 9,000nm range has enabled many airlines to operate new or existing intercontinental routes more efficiently. The Emirates started its first flights to North America (Dubai to New York) using -500, while Air Canda used the plane in its Toronto-Hong Kong service. However, it was Singapore Airlines that broke records with the A340-500.
Singapore to the USA
Singapore Airlines took great advantage of the A340-500, operating the first modern ultra-long haul routes using the aircraft. As mentioned, the aircraft flew from Singapore to Los Angeles, a journey of more than 14,000 km that comfortably surpassed the previous longest flight from Hong Kong to Newark. However, the aircraft also opened the door to the current longest flight in the world: Singapore to New York.
Singapore Airlines operated its SIN-EWR for the first time in June 2004, flying more than 15,300 km between the two cities. The 18-hour trip was made on a high-quality A340-500, which included 64 seats in business class and 117 seats in “Executive Economy” (similar to premium economy) on board. Later, the plane had a 100-seat business class cabin.
Enquanto as novas rotas estavam a bater recordes, a Singapore Airlines puxou a ficha da rota SIN-EWR no início de 2013, citando uma falta de receitas. Globalmente, a aeronave lutou para encontrar um mercado robusto, com apenas alguns poucos clientes.
Porque é que não teve sucesso?
Semelhante ao 777-200LR, o A340-500 só recebeu um punhado de encomendas de companhias aéreas, apesar da sua grande variedade. Muitas companhias aéreas apontaram a ineficiência do A340 de quatro motores, que consumia muito mais combustível do que os seus homólogos de dois motores. Com restrições ao número total de passageiros (bem abaixo de 300) para maximizar o alcance, o A340-500 fazia pouco sentido económico para as transportadoras tradicionais.
However, the A340-500 is undoubtedly the pioneer of ultra-long journeys and the longest routes in the world. The range of the -500 was later surpassed by the A350-900ULR, which offers greater range and greater efficiency.
Have you ever flown on the A340-500? What other routes did the plane serve? Tell us in the comments below!