Behind the Scenes at Airbus' Singapore A350 Delivery Ceremony
Earlier today, TPG and I helped Airbus celebrate one of its most significant milestones to date: the delivery of the 10,000th Airbus aircraft. Even more exciting than that, a Singapore Airlines A350 was selected for this honor — the same aircraft that SQ will use to launch nonstop service to San Francisco next weekend.
It was the first delivery ceremony for TPG and me, and, given the fanfare, I'm going to share the experience through a few photos — and a short video — below.
The morning started off at around 9:30am with a media briefing at Airbus' Delivery Center, located at Toulouse Airport in Southern France, near the company's headquarters. After filing into the briefing room, I caught my first (or second, really) glimpse of Singapore's brand new A350.
SVP of Market and Product Strategy Bob Lange walked the group through Airbus' history, including the company's nearly 40-year partnership with Singapore Airlines.
My favorite picture from the briefing is below. Long before the days of computer modeling, Airbus would draw an outline of the aircraft and plot out seating with actual chairs. Talk about high ceilings!
Singapore Airlines, meanwhile, has depended on Airbus since the original wide-body Airbus plane, the A300, which SQ began flying in the early 1980s.
The second most interesting slide covered the striking similarities between the A330 and A340 — the two aircraft models are nearly identical, with the A330 offering two engines and the A340 having four. Singapore has operated both models — the airline retired its A340-500s in late November 2013, when it ended nonstop service to Newark and Los Angeles.
An hour or so after the briefing began, we headed upstairs to the main part of the venue, where Singapore staff (including the four pilots who will operate tomorrow's ferry flight) mingled with guests.
Although the official unveiling was yet to come, I managed to sneak a picture of the guest of honor.
This particular aircraft has a special livery celebrating the 10,000th Airbus delivery. Keep an eye out for it at SIN and SFO!
It was then time for the ceremony — TPG and I grabbed seats right behind Airbus CEO Tom Enders (on the right below) and Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong (not pictured).
Enders kicked off the ceremony by recapping his company's history with Singapore Airlines.
It's clear that Airbus very much values its partnership with Singapore, which, including its subsidiaries, has purchased at least one model within each aircraft family, from the A300 to the A350. Singapore was also the launch customer for the Airbus A380, and was one of the first airlines to commit to the new A350. This clearly influenced Airbus' decision to select Singapore for the 10,000th delivery.
Next up was Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong — as you might expect, he seemed thrilled to be receiving Airbus' 10,000th plane.
Airbus execs then presented Singapore with a special "trophy" — I imagine we'll see it showcased at the airline's training center soon.
Airbus then showed a short promo video, which included render footage of the company's "Concept Plane," which could, in theory, debut in or around the year 2050.
Finally, there was a special dance — it's not clear if this is a typical component of the delivery ceremony, or if Airbus upped its game for the 10,000th aircraft.
Here's a video of a few seconds of the dance, followed by the grand unveiling:
After the ceremony, guests were invited to see the aircraft. It was a dreary morning, but Singapore's CEO was quick to point out that the Chinese believe that rain brings good fortune. (It also makes for some well-balanced light, making it easier to photograph a big white airplane.)
And then the highlight of the day — our (semi-private) tour of Singapore Airlines' latest plane.
Stay tuned for a full tour of the Singapore Airlines A350 — it'll be live on the site tomorrow. I'll be joining the delivery flight to Changi Airport tomorrow as well, so keep an eye out for more content in the days to come. You can also follow along with my adventure on Instagram, including the A350 delivery flight, a day in Singapore followed by a Korean Air 777-300ER flight to Seoul and an Asiana A380 flight to JFK.
Have you flown the Airbus A350?