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Airbus completed the first test flight of the ULR version on April 23 as part of a certification program for the plane. It’s building only seven of them right now, for delivery this year—a tiny number when one considers the economies of scale inherent to airplane manufacturing. The secret? Well, it turns out that it’s not that much trouble to soup up this hot rod.
The ULR doesn’t require additional fuel tanks over the standard A350-900, but instead uses additional space already available in the existing tanks to carry an extra 6,340 gallons of fuel to take its range to 9,700 nautical miles, or 1,600 more than the standard -900. Airbus said the plane can stay aloft for more than 20 hours at a time.
“For us, it’s really just a -900,” Marisa Lucas-Ugena, Airbus’ A350 marketing director, said last week. “The only thing that is really specific for the ULR is the additional fuel. And even on that, we are using the space we already have. It’s really just a minor evolution of that system with additional piping and additional venting.”
The changes to make an A350-900 into the ULR have “no impact” on the production lines in Toulouse, France, Lucas-Ugena added, with the manufacturing time the same for both versions. Airbus aims to churn out 10 A350s a month by year’s end, and currently has 832 orders for the A350 family.
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