Airbus has turned to Boeing's winglet supplier Aviation Partners to help it develop the upgrade for the A320 family, after other designs failed to achieve enough of a performance gain during testing.
The discussions with Aviation Partners were revealed to Flight International by Airbus chief operating officer customers John Leahy. He says that the talks are part of the ongoing effort to finalise the mid-life upgrade package for the A320 - dubbed the "A320 Enhanced" - which had been due for completion last year, with deliveries to begin in 2008.
A Winglet Technology design for Airbus's planned A320 Enhanced was tested last year
"The improvements will include a new cabin, some weight-saving, engine improvements, an aerodynamic clean-up and possibly winglets," says Leahy.
The target of the performance improvement package has been to reduce fuel burn by 4-5%, and last year Airbus undertook back-to-back tests of two winglet designs- one designed in-house and the other by US company Winglet Technology.
Airbus had expected the winglets alone would contribute "a couple of per cent" to the improvement, but during testing found that the increase in structural weight necessary to support the winglets "largely offset the gain".
However, Leahy says that Airbus continues to evaluate the winglet option and is talking to Aviation Partners to see if it can offer a more effective solution. The US company, which was unavailable for comment on the talks with Airbus, has a joint venture with Boeing - Aviation Partners Boeing - which produces blended winglets for the 737 and 757, and is studying other applications in the US airframer's product line.
Independently of the Boeing venture, Aviation Partners has developed winglet upgrades for the Gulfstream GII and Raytheon Hawker 800.
Bob Kiser, president of Winglet Technology says: "We believe we achieved the programme performance goals and it is still unclear to us why Airbus has chosen not to proceed with the programme."