Middle Eastern budget carrier Air Arabia is to fit part of its Airbus A320 fleet with sharklet wingtips, equipping 28 of the 44 it has on order with the fuel-saving modification.
The airline will start taking delivery of the sharklet-fitted aircraft from the second quarter of 2013.
Airbus disclosed the selection during a briefing in Toulouse. The airframer's flight-test aircraft, MSN1, is undergoing wing work at Toulouse in preparation for prototype sharklet performance testing.
This involves creating a "clean wing", says A320 family chief engineer Wolfgang Engler, by removing flaps and slats, then jacking the aircraft into a stress-free condition in order to remove the wing skin.
Afterwards the wing will be reinforced internally and fitted with test instrumentation. The jet's rear fuselage skin will also be changed in order for MSN1 to undertake minimum-unstick tests, says Engler.
First flight of the sharklet-equipped aircraft prototype will take place in October this year. The regime calls for about 220h of flight tests before the sharklets are removed and Airbus conducts reference testing with the airframe.
Production version test flights amounting to some 650h, across several airframe variants, are scheduled to begin in August next year ahead of certification by the end of 2012.
Lead image © APG Photography