Tigerair of Singapore, in which Singapore Airlines has a stake of 32.8%, unveiled the first A320 aircraft to be retrofitted in Asia with Sharklets. Five A320s have already been delivered to Tigerair with Sharklet-ready wings, with the retrofit work being undertaken by Sepang Aircraft Engineering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Sharklet-ready wings are already strengthened to the necessary levels to handle the bending and twisting forces introduced by the additional aerodynamic surface. The retrofit takes just 2 days for such ready wings. Non-sharklet ready wings will need at least 13 days of work with the sharklet-retrofit kit, which will be available only in 2015.
Jet Blue made “history" in the February of 2013 by being the first operator to perform a production retrofit, on its aircraft N821JB (MSN 5417 which first flew on the 1st of December, 2012). This aircraft was produced before MSN 5428, which is now registered as 9M-AQQ, flying for Air Asia, that had made “history" as the first Sharklet Equipped A320 to be delivered.
Factory fit and production retrofit can be better understood here.
In addition to its retrofitted aircraft, 9V-TRK (MSN 5697 delivered on the 26th of July 2013 to Tigerair), Tigerair will start taking delivery of production-fitted Sharklet aircraft later this year.
Almost a year after the first Airbus A320 equipped with a sharklet was delivered, Airbus announced the launch of the sharklet retrofit program for in-service A320 aircraft, and will be available in 2015.
This retrofit includes reinforcing the wing structure and adding the Sharklet wingtip device. As part of the upgrade, the retrofit will lengthen the aircraft’s service life and thus maximise the operators’ return on investment for the Sharklet retrofit.
The extent of reinforcement and more details on the sharklets may be viewed here, in this comprehensive article on Winglets and Sharklets.
Airbus will offer the retrofit initially for A320 and A319 models and will evaluate a retrofit for the A321 at a later stage.
The Sharklets’ benefits include a fuel consumption reduction by up to 4 per cent (Only on long sectors), and an extension of mission range by 100 nautical miles or payload capability increase by up to 450 kilogrammes.
Sharklets equipped on new-build A320 Family aircraft have been delivered by Airbus since December 2012, with more than 184 received by customers and operators to date. MSN 5428 is the first sharklet equipped Airbus A320. In India, only two operators of the Airbus A320 feature sharklet equipped A320s in their fleet: IndiGo and GoAir.
In Indigo, VT-IFH onwards, up to the latest, VT-IFV feature sharklets. Out of 71 Airbus A320 in the airline’s fleet, 15 are equipped with sharklets.
In Go Air, VT-GOL onwards, up to the latest, VT-GOP feature sharklets. Out of 18 Airbus A320 in the airline’s fleet, 5 are equipped with sharklets.
There are 112 Airbus A320 in India (excluding A321 and A319), 17.8% of which are equipped with fuel-saving sharklets.
New Airbus A320 family aircraft come with strengthened wings, ready for the increased aerodynamic loads the Sharklets impose on the wings. It is then up to the customer to choose for a factory installation of either the roughly US$1M winglets, or the standard wingtip fences.
Or, if the customer chooses to, may later swap the wingtip fences with the winglets (Airbus calls them Sharklets), in what is known as a Production Retrofit. The rettrofit kit adds to the cost of the Sharklets.
Jet Blue made “history” by being the first operator to perform a production retrofit, on its aircraft N821JB (MSN 5417 which first flew on the 1st of December, 2012). This aircraft was produced before MSN 5428, which is now registered as 9M-AQQ, flying for Air Asia, and made “history” as the first Sharklet Equipped A320 to be delivered.
The recently delivered A320s to JetBlue, which came without the Sharklets, take less than 2 days per aircraft to fit the Sharklets. However, the older A320s in its fleet, on which JetBlue wishes to fit Sharklets, will need structural modification to strengthen the wings, and will take an estimated 14-21 days at a MRO facility. Newer deliveries will have the Sharklets fitted at the factory.
Watch the two videos, to understand and appreciate the differences between the two ways in which you can strap on the Sharklets: either at the factory, or at your facility.
Load Alleviation Function is accomplished by deflecting spoilers 4&5, and the ailerons, on both wings.
Capt Saleem Zaheer, Chief Pilot – Flight Operations at Indigo Airlines, sent out a mail to all Indigo flight crew describing his flight experience of the first flight of the A320 equipped sharklet, VT-IFH. Capt Saleem, and his senior first officer, flew the aircraft on the DEL-MAA-CJB-DEL pattern (Delhi – Chennai – Coimbatore-Delhi).
In course of their flight, the flight crew noticed no difference between the handling qualities of the sharklet-equipped A320, and their fleet of non-sharklet equipped A320s. The crew however noted the movement of ailerons and outboard spoilers when flying through turbulence, which is in accordance with a design by Airbus known as the Load Alleviation Function (LAF). The higher bending loads experienced by an A320 wing equipped with Sharklets, especially under conditions of rapidly fluctuating lift (when flying through turbulence), need to be alleviated. To accomplish this, the outboard spoilers (Numbers 4 & 5 on both wings) and the wing ailerons are deflected in accordance with the fall or rise in life.
VT-IFI landed in Delhi yesterday, and is the second Sharklet equipped A320 to join Indigo’s fleet.
Below is a video of VT-IFI’s first flight ever, which was on the 25th of January, 2013, at Hamburg, Germany.
Airbus MSN 5463, an A320-214 with Sharklets, that first took to the skies on the 15th of January, 2013, was delivered to Go Air (India) on 30th January, 2013, making the airline the second Indian airline to operate a “Sharklet"-equipped Airbus A320. The induction of VT-GOL makes it the 14th aircraft in the fleet, in addition to two A320s that were leased for the winter, from Orbest Orizonia Airlines.
Go Air, like Indigo, leases back airplanes that it sells. VT-GOL, the sharklet equipped A320, is financed by ACG (Aviation Capital Group) under a sale and leaseback arrangement, and is the 14th of 20 airplanes ordered by Go Air in 2006. In addition, Go Air placed an order for 72 A320NEO airplanes in 2011.
According to Airbus, “Due to the very strong customer demand for Sharklets, all Airbus’ single-aisle final assembly lines (FALs) will be engaged in building A320 Family aircraft with Sharklets. These FALs are located in Toulouse (France), Hamburg (Germany) and Tianjin (China) and will soon be followed by an additional A320 FAL in Mobile (Alabama, USA)."
VT-WAE is the oldest airplane in the fleet, delivered in the October of 2007. If Go Air ‘s lease agreement is for 6 years, VT-WAE is slated to leave the fleet this year.
Indigo just became India’s first airline to operate a sharklet-equipped A320, with its VT-IFH registered Airbus A320 that it took delivery of, on 28th January, 2013. VT-IFH bears manufacturer serial number (MSN) 5437, and first took to the skies on the 15th of January, 2013, and herald a new chapter for Indigo with an operationally more economical airplane, that has the potential of saving the airline in excess of US$400,000 per year, per aircraft.
All future A320 aircraft to be delivered to IndiGo shall be fitted with the Sharklet wing tip devices.
This aircraft will be the 75th A320 that the airline has taken delivery of. Of the 75, 14 no longer fly for Indigo. Indigo sells every aircraft that it takes deliver of, leasing the airplane back from the lessor. The lease period is typically for six years: sufficient time for Indigo to make the most of a new airplane’s reliability and performance, while avoiding an expensive “D” check. Those that flew for Indigo, for the first six years of their life, now fly for Ethiad, SAS, BH Air, Myanmar Airways International, Kibris Turk Hava Yollari Charters, and Turkish Airlines.
MSN 5460 is the next sharklet equipped A320 slated to join the Indigo fleet as VT-IFI, while VT-INK will be the next A320 to leave the Indigo fleet.
Go Air will be the next Indian airline to receive Airbus A320 aircraft fitted with sharklets.