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.
Air Asia recently received the world’s first “Sharklet”-equipped A320 for commercial operations. Indigo and Go air will very soon have VT-IFH and VT-GOL flying in the Indian skies; both equipped with “sharklets”. Ever wanted to know more about these “Sharklets” that are grabbing headlines today?
Here is a comprehensive article on Winglets, or what Airbus prefers to call them: “Sharklets”, which are “Hunting down fuel burn“.
Despite the advances in other areas, Airbus lagged behind when it came to wingtip devices. The conventional and all too familiar wingtip fences that we see on the Airbus A300s, A310s, A320s and the A380s did their job, but a scope for improvement always existed. The Airbus A330s and the A340s broke from the norm by employing conventional winglets, similar to the ones seen on a Boeing 747-400.
On the 30th of November 2011, when the first ever A320 to be produced: MSN 0001 took to the skies, this wingtip complacency was relegated to a page in history. With the first flight of an A320 with “Sharklets”, the Airbus lingo for winglets, Airbus was ready to give to the world a much awaited confirmation and assurance of a winglet that will finally make its way to production aircraft.
Vortices which result at the tips of wings as a result of the pressure difference that exists between the upper and lower surfaces of the wings induce a drag which reduces the wing’s aerodynamic efficiency. Winglets are small , nearly vertical aerodynamic surfaces which are designed to be mounted at the tips of aircraft wings. A properly designed winglet impedes these vortices, shifting them instead further up to the tip of the winglet, resulting in much weaker vortices. As a result, the induced drag is significantly reduced, improving the lift to drag ratio of the new compound wing structure.
An increased lift to drag ratio implies lesser engine thrust requirement for a desired amount of lift, which directly relates to fuel savings. Like other winglets, these Sharklets bring with them a bundle of realistic promises, the biggest of which is a 3.5% fuel saving over 3000NM-long flying sectors, and around 1% fuel saving over 500NM long sectors, in comparison to A320s flying with the conventional wingtip fences.
For an A320 operator like Indigo, which deploys its A320s on a mix of medium haul international and short haul domestic routes, the savings can be huge. Based on the flight schedule, Indigo can comfortably deploy one A320 on the Bangalore-Mumbai-Singapore-Mumbai-Bangalore pattern every day. Fuel cost at Bangalore and Mumbai have been approximated to be the same.
Projected savings on a single A320. Fuel Prices as of Dec 25th, 2011. 3% fuel savings (assumed) used for 2000NM and 1% fuel savings (Airbus data) for 500NM.
With this pattern, the same A320 operating with Sharklets can save about US$400,000 per annum on fuel related costs.
According to John Leahy of Airbus, the price for the winglet will be similar to the forward fit, of around US$950,000, although the retrofit kit could add to the cost, though not substantially. A pair of Sharklets attached to an A320 flying the above pattern can pay back for itself in 2.5 years. Six A320s in Indigo’s fleet (INA-INF) are 5 years old. If Indigo plans to get rid of aircraft around 5 years old, a potential US$ 1M is saved by the airline, per aircraft.
But these are not the only savings. Either the revenue payload can be increased by 500kgs, or the range can be extended by 100NM at the original payload. The increased lift to drag ratio of the wing will result in higher available takeoff weights, notably from obstacle-limited runways, and where runway performance is not limiting, operators could profit from a reduction in average takeoff thrust (with consequent savings in engine maintenance costs by around 2%). The Sharklets lend the aircraft a better takeoff performance and rate-of-climb, higher optimum altitude, higher residual aircraft value, and greater safety margins in the event of an engine failure.