PARIS: Air Berlin evaluates sharklet retrofit for A320s

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German carrier Air Berlin plans to decide by October whether to retrofit sharklets to its existing Airbus A320s.

The airline is evaluating the potential benefits of modifying the aircraft with the fuel-saving wing tip device. This could, in theory, affect up to 63 aircraft. But Felix Genze, vice-president performance improvement at Air Berlin, cautions that the airline's older A320s would require wing-structure reinforcement for the sharklet installation.

He adds that the airline does not believe Airbus's calculations that the replacement of the existing wing-tip fences with sharklets will improve fuel efficiency by 4%. Air Berlin wants to decide "over the summer" if - and how many - A320s will be retrofitted with the equipment, he says.

Meanwhile, the German carrier is pursuing a range of other initiatives to cut fuel consumption, having earlier this year introduced fuel auditors to inspect aircraft for aerodynamic inefficiencies.

This covers, for example, looking for areas of peeling paint, deteriorated seals and sealants, and rigging deficiencies such excessive gaps around flight-control surfaces.

Air Berlin uses a tablet for the inspection with dedicated software that has been written by one of the airline's pilots in co-operation with the technical university in the German capital. The programme is based on aircraft performance data provided by the manufacturers.

The dedicated inspections allowed quantification of aerodynamic versus engine performance losses in the overall performance deterioration of ageing aircraft, he says.