Airbus has launched new “Sharklet” large wingtip devices, specially designed to enhance the eco-efficiency and payload-range performance of the A320 family.
At the Dubai Airshow 2009, which opened on November 15, Airbus revealed Air New Zealand as the launch customer for the Sharklets, ordering them for its future A320 fleet. On November 3, Air New Zealand ordered 14 A320s and optioned seven more to replace 15 Boeing 737-300s on short-haul routes, adding to 12 A320s it already operates.
“Air New Zealand recently decided to move to an all-A320 fleet for narrow-body operations on domestic and short-haul international routes,” says Rob Fyfe, Air New Zealand’s chief executive officer. “The new Sharklets will enable our Airbus fleet to benefit from lower fuel burn and carbon emissions, both across Air New Zealand’s domestic network and especially on the longer trans-Tasman sectors.”
Offered as a forward-fit option, Sharklets are expected to result in at least 3.5 per cent reduced fuel burn over longer sectors, corresponding to an annual CO2 reduction of around 700 tonnes per aircraft. Airbus says this fuel-burn improvement is additional to the already positive benefit delivered by the existing A320 wingtip fence.
The A320 will be the first A320-family model fitted with Sharklets, which will be delivered around the end of 2012, to be followed by the other A320-family models from 2013.
From the initial computer graphic image released by Airbus on November 15, the A320-family sharklets will resemble the Blended Winglets developed by Aviation Partners for the Boeing 737NG family that is the direct rival to the A320 family, and subsequently for the Boeing 737 Classic family, the Boeing 757 family and the Boeing 767-300ER.
“Sharklets are not just part of Airbus’ response to addressing environmental issues and rising fuel costs, but they also enhance aircraft overall performance,” notes John Leahy, Airbus’ chief operating officer – customers.
According to Airbus, the payload-range benefits that the A320-family Sharklets will offer include either a revenue payload increase of around 500kg or an additional 100nm (185 km) range at the original payload.
The company says the Sharklet installation will also keep the A320 family within the ICAO ‘Class C’ airliner size (which includes a wingspan less than 36m) and will result in higher available takeoff weights, notably from obstacle-limited runways.
Moreover, says Airbus, where runway performance is not ‘limiting’, operators should profit from a reduction in average takeoff thrust (with consequent savings in engine maintenance costs by around 2 per cent), resulting in lower take-off noise. Other benefits will be enhanced climb performance and a higher initial cruise altitude.
Development of Sharklets has been part of a larger continuous improvement program for the A320 family, which Airbus supports with an annual investment in excess of 100 million euros each year.
To this end, says Airbus, it has conducted a thorough campaign over several years to evaluate improved large aerodynamic devices with company-owned A320 test aircraft and with its advanced computational-fluid-dynamics (CFD) simulation tools.