As of tomorrow, the longest flight in the world will shuttle passengers on a 747-400 from Sydney, Australia to Dallas, Texas. That 15-hour, 25-minute hop on board Qantas 7 may not be the lengthiest in duration, but at 8,578 miles gate to gate, it'll lead the industry in miles flown. For a few more hours, however, Singapore Airlines' decade-long run from Newark, N.J., to Singapore remains the record holder for both time (more than 18 hours) and distance (9,534 miles). It's a journey that's been on the bucket lists of the world's most ambitious aviation enthusiasts since the city-state's namesake airline first launched the service in 2004, and following tonight's final jaunt, this record-setting A340-500 will touch down at Changi Airport for the very last time.
Despite this cheerless loss, it's a spectacular time in the world of aviation. Sure, we don't have our supersonic Concorde replacement just yet, and the Dreamliner rollout was not without significant heartbreak, but the past few years have represented a tremendous period, with banner launches from both Airbus and Boeing that will change the way we fly forever. But as with any category, aircraft manufacturing and design advances also serve to highlight the shortcomings of previous-generation products.
The Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 make massive efficiency boosts a reality, leading gas-guzzling greats like the aging A340-500 to a premature retirement. In this case, the A345's departure from Singapore's fleet represents not only better things to come, but also the loss of a landmark route -- it's an unavoidable compromise, and with the end in sight, I drained my frequent flier account in order to score a ticket, and set out to discover the significance of Singapore Flight 21's retirement.
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