Airbus could decide this year to go ahead with a winglet programme for the A320 family as it finalises another round of upgrades and enhancements to the performance improvement package that it began to introduce in 2007.
The first instalment comprised a new, lighter cabin and aerodynamic tweaks (new engine pylons, surge tank vent and reprofiled belly fairing) which will see more than a 1% reduction in drag. Alain Flourens, head of Airbus's single-aisle programme, says that aerodynamic clean-up studies are now looking at other areas for further improvements "such as around the antennas", while there is a weight-saving programme under way that is aiming to achieve a 200kg (440lb) reduction "within 24 months".
Flourens says that Airbus's "ongoing studies" into winglets for the A320 have received new impetus following the fuel-price hikes.
The evaluation, which includes work with Boeing's winglet associate Aviation Partners, should bear fruit within the coming months: "By the second half of this year we'll be in a position to decide whether to continue studies or implement a programme," he says.
Two years ago Airbus flight-tested two winglet designs on its A320 development aircraft with the target of finding "a couple of percent" performance gain, but these studies were not pursued after it was established that the wing strengthening required offset any performance gain.
However, Flourens says Airbus is now examining ways of mitigating the amount of structural reinforcement required, possibly by a wing load alleviation function using ailerons. He adds that the airframe weight-saving programme could also help counter the strengthening.
Meanwhile, although Airbus has no plans for a fully integrated class 3 electronic flight bag on the A320 family, it is working to offer a class 2 solution.
"This would have a screen installed under each side window and be accessed through a PC installed in the back of the pilot's chair," says Flourens. "We're about to select a vendor for the hardware and expect it to be available by the end of 2009."
In tandem with the EFB effort, Airbus is looking at whether it can incorporate the airport navigation display and "Brake To Vacate" autobrake function developed for the A380.
"We're looking at the best solution - where to show the navigation display," says Flourens, with one possibility being the EFB screen.