Earmark to jumpstart Aviation Partners spiroid wingtip flight tests

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Aviation Partners plans to begin testing its patented spiroid wingtip technology this autumn on the company's Dassault Falcon 50 business jet with help from $2 million from Washington. The money has been added to another spending bill by Washington Senator Patty Murray.

Hank Thompson, vice-president of operations for API, says the government money will help the company "move at a much more rapid pace", but is only a portion of the amount the company will contribute to advance the technology to production readiness within two years.

API patented the spiroid wingtip concept in 1992, and later tested the devices on a Gulfstream GII, claiming 6-10% drag reduction in cruise flight. The company is best known for its blended winglet technology, now installed on more than 3,000 aircraft, including several business jet types, as well as the Boeing 737 and 757 airliners. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the devices can reduce fuel burn by as much as 4%.

In addition to reducing drag, and hence fuel burn, API say new and improved versions of the spiroids could aid the US Federal Aviation Administration in increasing airspace capacity near airports. The company says its preliminary analysis of the vortex wake behind a spiroid wingtip using a chase aircraft indicated "the potential for large decreases" in wake intensity. "This could substantially alter the requirements for separation distances between lead and following aircraft in airport traffic patterns," the company says.

Although the project will be booked as part of the FAA's wake turbulence research programme, the agency says the work is focused on fuel efficiency and is not connected to current wake vortex research programmes. "It's a way to provide funds to Aviation Partners," a senior FAA official says.