PICTURES: A320 begins flight tests with Aviation Partners winglets

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Airbus's A320 flying testbed (F-WWBA) began another round of winglet flight-trials from Toulouse today, this time equipped with a blended winglet designed by Aviation Partners (API).

Airbus says that the objective of the tests and subsequent evaluation is to identify both the performance and economic benefits that these devices could offer. "In conjunction with follow-up analyses, they will provide data on the overall viability of the devices and help to determine whether API's technology could be considered for an integrated Airbus programme," says Airbus.

 airbus-a320-winglet
 © Airbus

In 2006, Airbus undertook back-to-back flight testing of two other winglet designs, one developed in-house and the other by Winglet Technology of the USA. These tests had the target of finding "a couple of percent" performance gain. However at the time Airbus could not find sufficient improvement to offset the weight increase caused by the strengthening required. It says that it "continues its work on evaluating wing-tip designs for the A320 family and assessment of innovative ways of reducing the impact of the higher structural loads, without incurring major structural weight increases".

Regarding the latest trial, Airbus executive vice-president engineering Patrick Gavin says: "We continue to work on further improving the eco-efficiency of all our aircraft. These early evaluation tests are a milestone that need to be achieved long before implementation."