The original A320 prototype rolled out of a hangar in Toulouse this morning, sporting Airbus-designed winglets or "sharkets", which will enter service with Air New Zealand starting next year. The coming flight test evaluations represent a near-final configuration in a long series of evaluations undertaken by Airbus to take its original wing fence design and replace it with a full-fledged winglet. The wing fence design was first introduced with the A320-200 model in November 1988.
Airbus returned to evaluations of wingtip treatments for the A320 family in early 2006, announcing it would flight test two designs. The first, a standard angled winglet and the second and a parabolic blended winglet design from Winglet Technologies. The angled winglet was flight tested in April 2006 and the parabolic design followed on MSN001 in July of that same year.
Airbus turned to Aviation Partners for a better winglet design after the 2006 angled and parabolic trials failed to achieve the desired improvement in performance. The Seattle-based Aviation Partners is better known for the its joint venture with Boeing, providing winglets for the 737, 757 and 767 family aircraft. The company offered a scimitar blended winglet to Airbus for the A320 family, flight testing the design in December 2008.
JetBlue, eager to get its hands on the fuel saving winglets for its flee, lent an aircraft to Airbus for flight testing of both the angled and parabolic winglets designs during the initial trials on MSN2755 in June and September 2006, as well as the Aviation Partners scimitar design aboard MSN1904 in January 2010.
Airbus made its winglet plan official with its selection of its own design at the 2009 Dubai Air Show, branding its own configuration as "sharklets". At June's Paris Air Show, Airbus also agreed to evaluate a retrofit winglet program for existing A320 family aircraft, though few details of the program have been firmed up.