Feb. 19--Chicago-based United Airlines this week became the first carrier to operate a commercial flight using an aircraft equipped with new fuel-saving wing tips.
A United Boeing 737-800 plane retrofitted with new Split Scimitar Winglets flew Tuesday from Houston to Los Angeles. The new-style Winglets, which add a wing-tip piece curving downward as well as upward, received approval earlier this month by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The new wing tips, along with older versions, are expected to save United $200 million a year in fuel costs.
The new Winglet design further reduces aircraft drag, compared with the basic "blended winglet" United uses on its current fleet. The new design will reduce fuel consumption by up to an additional 2 percent per aircraft, United said. United plans to retrofit its 737-800 and 737-900ER aircraft with the new Winglet.
United currently has more than 350 aircraft fitted with the older blended Winglet technology. Once the Split Scimitar Winglet installation is complete, the combined Winglet technology on United's 737, 757 and 767 fleet is expected to save more than 65 million gallons of fuel a year, equivalent to 645,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide and $200 million per year in jet fuel costs.
The savings will contribute to United's overall fuel-savings initiative announced last fall to reduce its fuel costs by $1 billion by 2017, United said.
The winglets are made by Aviation Partners Boeing, a Seattle-based joint venture of Chicago-based Boeing Co. and Aviation Partners Inc.
Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines have also agreed to install the Split Scimitar Winglets on some of their newer Boeing 737s.
Boeing rival Airbus has a similar wing-tip technology it calls Sharklets.
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APB's newest program is the culmination of a five-year design effort to redefine the aerodynamics of the Blended Winglet.
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