The best-selling A320 Family jetliner – which is a familiar sight at airports around the world – assumed an even sleeker look today as the first aircraft equipped with Airbus’ fuel-saving “Sharklets” performed its maiden flight.
Using the Airbus in-house A320 development aircraft, this nearly five-hour initial flight marked the start of a multi-month test campaign from the company’s Toulouse, France headquarters that will validate the Sharkets’ performance, confirm their aerodynamic behavior and gather data for certification.
The Sharklets are designed to reduce fuel consumption by up to 3.5 per cent, corresponding to an annual CO2 reduction of some 700 tonnes per aircraft, while also enhancing the payload/range and takeoff performance.
Sized at approximately 2.5 metres tall and produced primarily with lightweight carbon fibre composites, Sharklets replace the current A320 wingtip fences that are smaller and of a modified triangular shape. The Sharklets are standard on A320neo (new engine option) Family jetliners, and offered as optional equipment on new-build baseline versions of the single-aisle aircraft.
To date, airlines and leasing companies have signed nearly 1,500 firm orders and commitments for Sharklet-equipped A320neo Family jetliners, while a growing number of customers also are selecting them for newly-ordered baseline versions in the A320 product line.
Sharklets derive their name from the resemblance to a shark’s fin, are part of Airbus’ ongoing continuous improvement programme for the A320 Family – which also includes other aerodynamic refinements, engine improvements, passenger cabin enhancements and extended service intervals for the airframe.