Airbus revives sharklet retrofit for older A320s

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Airbus has restarted its sharklet retrofit programme for older members of the A320 family, having secured commitments for about 200 sets from customers.

It is formally offering the retrofit, initially for the A320 and A319, from 2015.

The retrofit covers aircraft delivered before the introduction of the reinforced sharklet-capable wing which is now standard build for the type.

As a result the retrofit requires reinforcing part of the wing structure before the sharklet wing-tip can be attached.

The retrofit will be feasible for airframes from around MSN1200 upwards because these aircraft already have required cockpit hardware fitted and, besides the wing work, would only need an operational software change.

Retrofit would take about 13 days and customers would individually choose how best to arrange the modification work.

“This could, for example, be accomplished during a regular scheduled heavy check,” says Airbus.

Airbus had suspended work on the sharklet retrofit earlier this year, claiming that the business case had yet to become clear.

JetBlue Airways has been particularly interested in a retrofit programme for its A320 fleet, and had tentatively signed for sets covering 110 aircraft.

The airframer has not identified any other customers but says it has commitments from airlines for about 200 retrofit sets.

“Retrofit will lengthen the aircraft’s service life and maximise the operators’ return on investment for the sharklet retrofit,” says the airframer.

Airbus is to evaluate extending the retrofit to the A321 which uses a different wing from the A320 and A319. Around 600 A321 airframes in the in-service fleet, it says, would be eligible for the work.

Customers with A320-family jets delivered with the reinforced wing are already able to retrofit sharklets through a relatively simple plug-in procedure.