Air New Zealand is to fit 3.4m tall winglets to its Boeing 767 aircraft which it estimates will save $7.5 million worth of fuel a year.
Making the announcement in Seattle this morning, the airline's chief pilot Dave Morgan, said Air New Zealand had been looking at the equipment for the past four years but current fuel prices make the case compelling.
The winglets are made of carbon fibre, titanium and aluminium and work by minimising the amount of air that spills to the wing tip and increases drag.
Winglets are now a standard feature of many aircraft rolling off the production line, but Air New Zealand will be one of the first airlines to retrofit them to 767s which fly mainly to Australia, the Pacific Islands and Hawaii.
"They look very sexy on an airplane and the key part is the reduction of CO2 emissions which is very significant," said Morgan, who is general manager of airline operations.
Air New Zealand hopes to save 1.6 million US gallons of fuel and 16,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually among the five 767 aircraft.
It is not revealing the cost of the work but said it should get payback within three years. Work will be done at the airline's engineering staff and should be finished by the end of next year. It would take about 18 days to do the work which requires extra strengthening of wings.
Air New Zealand's Boeing 767s are nearly 13 years old and the winglets would increase their resale value, said Morgan.
The airline is also investigating whether it will fit them to 777-200s.
Morgan said it was possible they could also be fitted to domestic 737s but the benefits were not at the same level as for long-haul aircraft.
Because the planes can climb faster because of extra lift, noise around airports was reduced by about 6.5 per cent.
Aviation Partners Boeing has sold hundreds of the retrofit kits to airlines for other aircraft types and is confident of getting Federal Aviation Administration for the 767 in November. Flight tests are underway at present.
Another announcement today designed to cement the airline's environmental credentials came when it said it would install new "zonal dryers" in its international jets.
The electrically-powered dryers, mounted in the space above the ceiling or under the floor, reduce moisture trapped in insulation between the aircraft outer skin and cabin lining. They typically remove around 200 kilograms of water from each aircraft, which reduces fuel consumption.
Air New Zealand expects to save 500,000 US gallons of fuel a year across 42 aircraft, reducing carbon emissions by 4700 tonnes a year.
Morgan said reducing moisture helped improve the effectiveness of the aircraft's insulation, meaning a healthier cabin environment and reduced potential for corrosion.
"Once we had proved the range of benefits to our satisfaction the decision was obvious and we moved quickly to capture the benefits across our four jet aircraft fleets."
Each passenger exhales round 100 grams of water an hour and the cold outside temperatures at altitude generate significant condensation which is retained in the aircraft insulation, said Morgan.
Installing the dryers - which will be fitted to the airline's Boeing 777, 767, 737 and Airbus A320 fleets, would improve the environment both inside and outside the aircraft.
* Grant Bradley travelled to Seattle courtesy of Air New Zealand