FlyerTalk member amolkold noticed that an Airbus A330-200 aircraft with no passengers operated as Delta Air Lines flight 9971 from Singapore to Atlanta without any stops along the way — and other FlyerTalk members started speculating on the reasons why this occurred.
However, FlyerTalk member JG330 — also known as Joe Gilroy, who was one of the four pilots aboard Delta Air Lines flight 9971 on May 26, 2013 — has the details about that flight:
“The aircraft 3351 an A320-200 was in Singapore receiving a new interior with lie flat seats, a new IFE system and a new underfloor crew rest facility that replaces two separate facilities. The four of us were sent to Singapore to complete test flights to re certify many important systems mostly associated with smoke detection in the cargo area. These flights took place over two days and took 16 hours to complete.
“Once we were done it became a waiting game for the FAA certification paperwork to be completed. The airplane cannot be flown with any payload until this step is complete. It was estimated that the wait would be over two weeks.
“The decision was then made to fly the aircraft back to Atlanta under an ‘Experimental’ certificate to wait out the certification. Planning for the flight took a day or two to sort out overflight permits and other issues related to our non-certified status. This also explains why we did not take the shortest route but rather the route that got us into us airspace as rapidly as possible. In the event of a diversion it would be far less complicated to land in the US as opposed to another country.
“The flight home was uneventful but very long as you can imagine. We split the flying up into shifts with two of us always in the flight deck and two resting. We had plenty of food and fortunately the new IFE worked perfectly. I think I watched 3 movies while resting!
“When we landed we still had almost 3 hours of fuel remaining. The A330 is an amazing aircraft and we think these new interiors will be a real hit with our passengers.
“Hope this gave you the information you were looking for and gives you an idea of the behind the scenes work required to keep our fleet in top shape.”
Speculation was further fueled of the possibility of Delta Air Lines considering non-stop flights between Singapore and the United States, according to an article found by FlyerTalk member naples_flyer several days ago — although if that were to happen, Los Angeles and Seattle would be more likely than Atlanta or New York as the origination and destination airports for non-stop flights to Singapore primarily because of distance and the maximum ranges of the fleet aircraft operated by Delta Air Lines.
In order to fly between Atlanta and Singapore on aircraft operated by Delta Air Lines, you currently need to change aircraft on a stopover at Narita International Airport near Tokyo for an odyssey expected to last a minimum of a total of 22 hours if you are traveling eastbound. Add a minimum of another hour and 30 minutes if you are traveling westbound. This route was inherited by Delta Air Lines when the merger with Northwest Airlines was approved back in 2008. I have flown as a passenger on this route, which lands in Singapore from Tokyo at the bizarre hour of approximately 1:20 in the morning in Singapore; and departs from Singapore to Tokyo at 5:15 in the morning. Delta Air Lines currently operates a Boeing 747-400 aircraft — acquired from the merger with Northwest Airlines — between Atlanta and Tokyo; and a Boeing 777-200LR aircraft between Tokyo and Singapore.
Singapore Airlines currently operates Airbus A340-500 aircraft between Singapore and Newark without any stops — a route which is currently the longest commercial flight in the world with a distance of 9,535 miles or 15,345 kilometers and a flight time of as much as 18 hours and 50 minutes — but non-stop flights between Singapore and Newark are expected to be discontinued in late November of 2013.
If you have any questions or want additional information pertaining to Delta Air Lines flight 9971, please join in on this discussion in the Delta SkyMiles forum on FlyerTalk.