In my earlier post about aircraft winglets I have mentioned the Boeing 767 as the latest type to receive post-production blended winglets but at that time it was only in its final development phase and being tested.
A Sunday in early March 2009 marked the first commercial flight by American Airlines, using a blended winglet fitted Boeing 767-300ER. The aircraft with the freshly installed winglets flew from Dallas/Fort Worth to London Heathrow with 204 passengers onboard. The winglet has been designed and developed by Aviation Partners Boeing, that has previously worked on similar, post-production winglets for the B757 for example. The 767-300ER has received very large, and especially tall additions to its wings, as these new winglets stretch 11 feet high (3.35 m!!) from the tip of the wings and “represent the largest piece of structure ever retrofitted to a commercial aircraft“.
According to the airline, the winglets will reduce fuel consumption per airplane per year by up to 500,000 gallons (~6.5%), which also means a carbon dioxide (CO2) emmission reduction of up to 277,000 metric tons annually. This figure makes “blended winglets the greenest aftermarket product available to the aviation industry today” – says Joe Clark, founder and Chairman of Aviation Partners Boeing. Using the special winglets also extends the airplane’s range by up to 360 nautical miles (666 kms) as well as increases the payload by up to 12,000 pounds (5450 kilograms) – by enabling better take-off performance without any engine updates. The winglets have been installed by American’s Maintenance & Engineering organization at its maintenance base in Kansas City, MO.
When American started to work with Aviation Partners Boeing, they estimated the winglets would save an annual 17 million gallons of kerosene for the airline, but with the final design they now predict to save 29 million gallons of Jet-A fuel a year when the winglets are installed on the full fleet of American‘s 58 Boeing 767-300s – they plan to finish the installation by 2011.
The 767-300ER Blended Winglet program proved to be a huge success even before the first commercial flight, as Aviation Partners Boeing has pre-sold more than 130 systems to 10 different airlines, even before the solution received certification.
Recently American’s fellow oneworld partner, LAN Airlines has also reported their first commercial flight between Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires with a blended winglet equipped 767-300ER on 31st of March, while Delta and Austrian have also received their first jets with this adjustment. LAN is planning to update its whole fleet of 37 767-300s by year-end (investing nearly $70 million), with Austrian planning 4 planes to carry the high red winglet by the end of May, 2009, after the first two (registrations OE-LAE and OE-LAY with special Star Alliance livery) have joined its fleet earlier this month. Further airlines planning to introduce blended winglets on their 767s include Air New Zealand, Condor and Hawaiian Airlines (with 8+7 options).
To date over 2,480 Boeing aircraft have now been equipped with Blended Winglets, which includes 124 Boeing 757s and 77 Boeing 737s in American’s fleet alone.