Paris Air Show

Aviation Partners wins STC for 757 winglets

 - December 12, 2006, 11:21 AM

Aviation Partners Boeing, the U.S. joint venture between “Blended Winglet” designer Aviation Partners and Boeing, last month received supplemental type certification for its winglet modification for the Boeing 757-200 airliner. The companies expect to start installing the eight-foot-two-inch tall Blended Winglets on Continental Airlines and Icelandair airplanes in July.

The winglet-equipped Continental 757-200 used for the certification flights flew for the first time on March 9 this year. It logged some 200 flight hours during the certification program before returning to service while the company finished the certification paperwork requirements. The Blended Winglet modification for the 757-200 costs about $750,000 (plus $126,000 for installation), and Seattle-based Aviation Partners Boeing estimates that most operators will recoup the cost of the mod in three years.

Experience with winglet-equipped 767s shows fuel savings of about 5 percent. This could translate to as much as 300,000 gallons per year for a typically operated 757-200, according to the company.

“The 757-200 Blended Winglet program is a tremendous milestone for us,” said Joe Clark, chairman of Aviation Partners Boeing and founder and CEO of Aviation Partners. Continental has ordered winglets for 11 of its 757-200s, and options for more, while Icelandair has booked seven of the modifications. The worldwide in-service 757-200 fleet comprises more than 900 aircraft, of which Continental flies 41 and Icelandair 10.

So far Aviation Partners Boeing has fit winglets on more than 750 Boeing jets–mostly 737s– since the joint-venture company formed in 1999 following an agreement signed at that year’s Paris Air Show. According to Boeing, it delivered only 10 percent of new 737s with the winglets in 2001. This year about 80 percent will have them.

Ryanair Orders 225

In February, UK-based Ryanair placed the largest order to date for Blended Winglets–225 for its 737-800s, with an option for up to 200 more. The carrier intends to equip its entire fleet and, starting in January, take delivery of all its new 737s with the winglets installed.

Although airliners sport the vast majority of Blended Winglets, Aviation Partners had its first success with a design patented in 1993 for a business jet, the venerable Gulfstream II. Today about 70 percent of the GII fleet, 121 aircraft, are winglet-equipped. Indeed the GII piqued Boeing’s interest in the Blended Winglets. Former Boeing Business Jet president Borge Boeskov approached Clark to see if the winglets could give the planned BBJ, a derivative of the 737-800, better performance and a look that distinguished it from the airliner. It did both, and Boeskov pushed and obtained approval from Boeing management to use the winglets on the BBJ. The modification is standard on all BBJs, of which 82 are now flying.

Selling the modification to the airlines proved difficult, however, and it wasn’t until late 2002, when jet fuel approached $1 per gallon, that Southwest decided to equip its 210-strong fleet of 737-700s–and all future deliveries– after deciding not to do so a few years earlier. Other airlines flying 737s soon followed, including Continental (35 aircraft converted, four on order), WestJet (28 and 34) and Copa (21 and one). As of late April, some 45 airlines had winglets installed on 1,111 Boeing 737-700s and -800s and held options for 1,108 more.

Canadian carrier WestJet has also teamed with the Aviation Partners Boeing as the launch customer for the 737-600 Blended Winglet modification. Flight testing with WestJet-provided aircraft  is scheduled to run from March to May next year, according to Aviation Partners Boeing CEO Mike Marino. The company expects FAA and Transport Canada certification that July.

While the Aviation Partners Boeing joint venture pursues winglet conversions for airliners (winglets for the 737-300ER, -400 and -900, 777-200ER and MD-80 are available for order or in development), Aviation Partners itself continues to develop business aircraft opportunities. Earlier this year the company won FAA certification for the winglet modification on the Raytheon Hawker 800 and 800XP business jets. It has other business jets on the drawing boards. Clark called the Cessna Citation and Dassault Falcons “well-suited to our technology.”

Over the next decade, Clark expects Aviation Partners will provide more than 3,000 Blended Winglets to airliners and business jets. He believes the potential market for the product is 30,000 to 40,000 aircraft, and so far the company faces no competition. Airbus builds winglets for its own airplanes, as does Bombardier for the Global Express, Challenger and Learjet and Gulfstream for the GIII and subsequent models, but no other companies produce aftermarket winglets.