Singapore to New York: How pilots fly this epic 18-hour journey

Last week saw Singapore Airlines resume its record-breaking flight between Singapore and New York. The 15,337-kilometre journey takes just over 18 hours on an A350-900, flying a route that can take it close to the North Pole.

With such a long flight comes a number of challenges for the crew of four pilots. A heavyweight takeoff, some serious mountainous terrain, the remoteness of the Arctic and northern Canada and a 20-hour duty all need careful thought and execution.

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Takeoff performance

For the nonstop flight to New York, the A350-900 will require around 100 tons of fuel. With a good payload of passengers and cargo on board, this means that the aircraft will be very close to its maximum takeoff weight of 268 tons.

Manufacturers design the aircraft and engines to be able to get airborne using as little engine power as possible. This is known as a de-rated takeoff. Not only does save on engine wear, but it also reduces the noise experienced by those who live and work near the airport.

However, this creates a trade-off. Take off too far down the runway and you run the risk of going off the end should something unexpected happen. Take off too soon and you’re using more engine power than you need to, increasing engine wear and fuel burn.

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