Blended winglet provider Aviation Partners Boeing (APB) says it has reached "100% market saturation" this year on new-build Boeing 737 commercial aircraft, marking the first time all customers of the aircraft have chosen factory installed winglets in a given year since the option was made available in mid-2004.

"For the first time, looking out 12 months, every single Boeing 737 aircraft eligible for winglets is getting winglets," says Patrick LaMoria, chief commercial officer at APB, a Washington-based joint venture that is 55% owned by blended winglet developer Aviation Partners, and 45% owned by Boeing. LaMoria says APB winglets are now flying on more than 4,400 Boeing aircraft, including the 737, 757 and 767.

At the latest production rate of 35 737s per month from the company's Renton, Washington factory, Boeing will deliver approximately 420 Boeing 737-700/700C/800/900ER models this year with APB blended winglets installed from the factory. Boeing reported that it delivered 99 Boeing 737s in the first quarter.

APB supplies the winglets and associated gear to Boeing for installation during the build process, eliminating anywhere from 420-1,900 labour hours in aircraft downtime, depending on aircraft model, to install a set of winglets in the aftermarket.

For the 737, each pair of winglets is priced at $1 million, not including installation. LaMoria says return on investment usually occurs in less than two years based on fuel savings alone.

Although the winglets increase the operational empty weight of the 737 between 100-236kg (220-520lb), depending on the model, the associated benefits include an increased range of 130nm (241km) or payload increase from 1,996-2,303kg.

In the existing fleet, the company says it has identified retrofit opportunities for 390 Boeing 737s, 350 Boeing 757s and about 400 767s. LaMoria notes that the number of 767s that could be equipped continues to increase since Boeing continues low-rate production on the model and does not offer 767 winglet installation at the factory.

For the forward-fit market, LaMoria sees a "very healthy" business for Boeing 737s for the "next 5-6 years", but there is no guarantee the company will select APB blended winglets for the GE Leap-1B-powered 737 Max, set for entry into service 2017. "We have a lot of long-lead future-oriented plans in place in hopes of working with Boeing for many years to come," says LaMoria. "But Max is still an open question."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news