Airbus rolls out test A320 with sharklets installed

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Airbus has rolled out its A320 test aircraft following the fitting of 'sharklet' wing-tips, which will be an option on new-build aircraft and standard on the re-engined A320neo.

The test aircraft, MSN1, will undergo flight-testing "in the coming weeks", said the airframer.

Sharklets, which replace the A320's wing fences, will reduce fuel-burn on the type by up to 3.5% on longer sectors of around 3,000nm (5,560km), Airbus claims.

The airframer also expects the sharklets - each of which is 2.5m (8.2ft) tall - to improve take-off performance by up to 3t.

This would provide the A320 with a higher available take-off weight from runways subject to obstacle limitations.

 a320 msn1

 © Airbus

MSN1 will be used to assess the performance of the modification, while Airbus will begin building wings next year which are capable of supporting the new tip.

Installation of the sharklet requires inboard and outboard reinforcement to handle different loading, as well as changes to outer wing ribs to accommodate the structure.

Several carriers have already signed to take the sharklets, including Air New Zealand, Air Arabia, Finnair and LAN.