Airbus has teamed up with Boeing's winglet supplier Aviation Partners to undertake a second evaluation of large winglets for the A320 family. Flight tests will begin in July on Airbus's A320 development aircraft.

"We will carry out a short flight-test programme of the API winglets," says A320 family programme executive vice-president Alain Flourens. "We aim to take a decision whether to proceed by the end of the year."

Flourens says that the airframer will strengthen the A320's wingtips for the test with doublers, and will examine the trade-off of the weight increase against the fuel burn benefits. There is also an ongoing weight reduction programme for the A320 that would help counter the strengthening, he adds.

A320 Winglets
 © Airbus

The upgrade is being studied for new-build aircraft and for in-service retrofits.

Airbus undertook two evaluations of winglets for the A320 in 2006 - one designed in-house and one by US company Winglet Technology - with 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.

As part of Airbus's drive to reduce fuel burn it is planning to undertake studies of an electric taxi device using an A320. "We are looking at installing electric motors in the wheels," says Flourens.

Airbus is in discussion with an undisclosed partner and could undertake a demonstration before the end of the year, adds Flourens. Either Airbus's flying testbed or the German DLR aircraft recently used for fuel cell tests will undergo the trial.

The test would be undertaken with electrical power from the auxiliary power unit. However, Flourens says that alternative power sources are being examined, such as fuel cell technology.

Source: Flight International