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Winglets: a tip-top solution for more efficient aircraft

3 February 2017 Feature story

When the first A330neo (New Engine Option) jetliner takes to the skies this year, it will mark the latest use of Airbus’ Sharklets™ – those graceful-looking upturned wingtip extensions that save fuel by reducing drag while also lowering noise emissions by improving take-off performance. 

Airbus pioneered the use of wingtip devices in commercial air transportation, beginning with the A300 and A310. Both of these widebody jetliners – cornerstones of the company’s product line – were outfitted with wingtip fences, arrow-shaped vertical attachments that extended above and below the end of the wing. 

Experience gained with the A300/A310 was applied to the wingtip fences integrated on Airbus’ single-aisle A320 Family, followed by the incorporation of wingtip fences and larger winglet-type devices on the A330, A340, A380 and A350 XWB jetliners. 

Airbus’ next evolution were Sharklets, the 2.4-metre-tall units developed for A320 Family jetliners that reduce fuel burn by up to 4 per cent while reducing CO2 emissions annually by as much as 900 tonnes per aircraft. In addition to being standard on New Engine Option A320neo aircraft, they are available for new-production A320ceo (Current Engine Option) versions, and offered in a retrofit solution on earlier-built A320-series aircraft. 

For the A330neo, its Sharklets increase the jetliner’s overall wingspan to 64 metres, an extension from 60.3-metres on current-production A330ceo aircraft.  As with all wingtip devices used on Airbus aircraft from the original A300/A310, they reduce the spiral-shaped vortices that form at the end of wings during flight, which creates aerodynamic drag.

 

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