JetBlue unveils first A320 with sharklets

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JetBlue Airways unveiled its first Airbus A320 outfitted with sharklet winglets on 21 February.

The winglets will result in an about 3% fuel burn reduction and either increase the range of the aircraft by 100nm (185km) or allow for a 453kg (1,000lb) increase in payload, say JetBlue and Airbus executives at an event in JetBlue's hangar 81 at New York's John F. Kennedy (JFK) airport.

"The addition of sharklets to our A320 fleet creates more fuel efficiency and allows us to be a greener airline," says Rob Maruster, chief operating officer of the low-cost carrier.

The fuel burn reduction will result in $350,000 in annual savings per aircraft with sharklets or $45 million in annual savings once the airline's entire A320 family is outfitted, says Mark Powers, chief financial officer of JetBlue. It intends to retrofit the entire fleet by 2017.

JetBlue is the first airline to install sharklets on an A320 after production in the world, and the first in North America to operate the aircraft with the winglets. AviancaTaca, IndiGo and JetStar Japan have already received sharklet-equipped A320s.

The airline's first A320 to receive sharklets is N821JB (manufacturer's serial number 5417), which was delivered by Airbus on 17 December, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database.

The aircraft will enter service on the JFK to San Francisco route on 23 February.

Jeff Martin, senior vice-president of operations, says that JetBlue will accept all new A320 family aircraft deliveries from Airbus with sharklets factory installed and outfit the four A320s delivered before N821JB for a total of 12 aircraft with the winglets by the end of the year.

JetBlue's last four A320 deliveries were N805JB, N806JB, N807JB and N809JB, according to Ascend. The airline is scheduled to take delivery of three A320s and four A321s this year.

Installing the winglets on newer aircraft, those with registrations beginning with N8, will take a day and a half, says Martin. Thee aircraft were delivered with structural upgrades to the wings that older A320s lack. Retrofits to older aircraft will take 14 to 21 days due to the needed structural upgrades.

Sharklets add 1.98m (6.5ft) to the each wing, says Martin. They weigh about 200kg, according to Airbus.

The winglets will allow JetBlue to eliminate tech stops on certain transcontinental routes, says Martin. About 1% of flights between JFK and Oakland and San Francisco, and Boston and Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco have to make the stops when flying in strong headwinds.

"Could somebody please call Salt Lake City and the Las Vegas airport and let them know there's going to be fewer tech stops in our future?" jokes Maruster at the event.