'Shark fin' wings give airline chiefs something to smile about

By Grant Bradley

The "sharklet" wing tips save fuel and cut carbon emissions.
The "sharklet" wing tips save fuel and cut carbon emissions.

New wing tips fitted to Air New Zealand's fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft on order could save the airline millions of dollars a year in fuel costs.

The airline will buy and lease 14 of the aircraft for routes which from 2012 will come equipped with "sharklets", so called because they resemble the fin of a shark.

Airbus showcased the devices at the Dubai Air Show and claims they could reduce fuel use by 3.5 per cent over longer sectors.

The plane maker etimates the sharklets would save operators US$220,000 ($300,000) worth of fuel annually for each aircraft.

Air New Zealand says the 2.4m tall sharklets deliver benefits.

About 700 tonnes of CO2 emissions would be saved by the devices, which will cost about $1.2 million per aircraft.

Airbus chief operating officer for customers, John Leahy, said an A320 with the sharklets could carry 500kg more than a plane fitted with standard upturned wingtips, or fly an extra 200km to reach 6200km.

On standard runways less thrust is required on takeoff - with savings in engine maintenance costs of about 2 per cent - and noise would be reduced.

"Other benefits are the enhanced climb performance and higher initial cruise altitude," Leahy said.

Air New Zealand this year began retrofitting its fleet of Boeing 767 aircraft with winglets to cut fuel costs.

The winglets are made of carbon fibre, titanium and aluminium and minimise the amount of air that spills off the wing tip into a vortex that creates drag.

- NZ Herald

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