AirBus

Airbus celebrated both its past and its future Friday, hitting a major milestone by delivering the 10,000th aircraft in the company’s history.

Perhaps fittingly, the plane designated as the European jetmaker’s landmark delivery is its newest aircraft type: an Airbus A350 bound for Singapore Airlines.

“We are honored and proud to have Singapore Airlines receive our 10,000th aircraft today,” Airbus CEO Tom Enders said as the jet was handed over to the Asian carrier at an official ceremony under dreary skies and drizzle.

“10,000 is an astonishing number,”‘ Enders said.

Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong followed Enders, calling it a  “remarkable milestone” for Airbus before saying Singapore Air was “honored to be receiving this extra-special aircraft.”

The jet — emblazoned with a commemorative “10,000th Airbus aircraft” logo — is the sixth A350 to join Singapore Airlines’ fleet, which will include at least 67 of the new-age models.  Saturday, the aircraft will depart for Singapore, where it’s likely to make its first revenue passenger flight barely a week later on the carrier’s inaugural non-stop flight from Singapore to San Francisco.

The route will become the longest in Singapore Airlines’ entire network, a notable distinction for a carrier that considers itself a pioneer of ultra-long-haul flying.

By distance, the 8,435-mile San Francisco-Singapore route is the world’s third-longest regularly scheduled airline flight. Singapore will share that ranking with United, which launched its own San Francisco-Singapore service in June, according to airline data firm OAG.

Only two airlines fly longer routes. Qantas’ non-stop route between Dallas/Fort Worth and Sydney clocks in at 8,576 miles while Emirates holds the title for “world’s longest flight” with its 8,819-mile flight between Dubai and Auckland, New Zealand.

The 10,000th delivery marks a major milestone for Airbus, whose first commercial passenger aircraft — the Airbus A300 widebody — entered service in 1974. Airbus has since rolled out numerous other models, including the A310, A320, A330, A380 and the new A350. Airbus’ A320 family of jets  includes the A319 and A321 variants.

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Two A350s make their way through Airbus’ A350 final assembly line near Toulouse, France, on Oct. 13, 2016.

Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY

Still, Airbus’ 10,00th delivery falls short of the count at U.S. rival Boeing, which has a significantly longer history. Boeing — which celebrated its centennial anniversary this summer — says it has delivered 21,264 airplanes since 1958, which is when its 707 debuted. Boeing’s delivery count includes 17,779 current and discontinued “7-series” jets (the 707, 717, 727, 737, 747, 767, 777 and 787) as well as 3,485 planes delivered by McDonnell Douglas and Douglas, which have since become part of Boeing.

For Airbus, Friday’s 10,00th delivery was a chance for the company to celebrate its successes as it moves into its fifth decade. Enders wondered what the founding employees of Airbus might think of Friday’s milestone delivery.

Enders described the company’s original executives as “visionaries,” but said,  “Even they could not have foreseen that we would be delivering already in 2016 our 10,000th aircraft.

“In the 1970s, we were producing at the rate of just over half an aircraft per month. And there were years, I’m told, when we had more cancellations than new orders,” Enders continued. “Today, we deliver more than 600 aircraft a year, and the ramp up is continuing.” He noted Airbus has set a goal of delivering its next 10,000 aircraft in  10 more years.

“Why shouldn’t we be ambitious?” he asked.

Singapore Air CEO Phong said, “It shows how far Airbus has come over the decades.”

Sidenotes from Toulouse

•Airbus officials talked up the company’s growing presence before the landmark delivery to Singapore Airlines.

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