The eco-efficiency of Airbus’ benchmark A320 single-aisle family aircraft will be further enhanced with the introduction of new, large wingtip devices that are to be available beginning around the end of 2012.
Known as Sharklets, these devices cut down on aerodynamic drag by helping reduce the spiral-shaped vortices that form at the wingtips of aircraft during flight. Their introduction on the A320 is expected to result in at least 3.5 per cent less fuel burn over longer sectors – which corresponds to an annual CO2 reduction of some 700 tonnes. The devices also should allow for less thrust to be used during takeoff when runway performance is not “limiting,” thereby decreasing airport noise.
In addition to their environmental benefits, Sharklets will provide aerodynamic improvements resulting in multiple advantages for operators – including increased range and payload, better takeoff performance and rate-of-climb, higher optimum altitude, reduced engine maintenance costs and higher residual aircraft value.
Air New Zealand is the first customer for Sharklets, which are offered as optional equipment on new production A320-series aircraft. The A320 will be the first model fitted with the devices, to be followed by other A320 Family members beginning in 2013.
Sharklets are the latest element in a continuous improvement programme designed to optimise the A320 Family’s competitiveness and efficiency, which also includes aerodynamic refinements, engine improvements, passenger cabin enhancements and extended service intervals for the airframe.
Airbus has been a pioneer in the use of wingtip devices, beginning with the use of relatively small wingtip fences on its A300 and A310 jetliners. This was followed by the A320 Family, which has been delivered with wingtip fences as standard equipment since the early production aircraft.
The Airbus experience has subsequently applied to the incorporation of wingtip fences and larger winglet-type devices on the A330, A340 and A380 – and in the future on the new A350 XWB.