UK-based GKN Aerospace is expected to announce its selection by Aviation Partners Boeing (APB) as a new supplier of the US company’s blended winglets for the rapidly expanding Boeing 737 ’Classic’ and newly launched 767 retrofit programmes, while United Airlines is poised to start retrofitting its 757s.

The GKN deal comes as American Airlines is announced as launch customer for the long-anticipated Boeing 767-300ER retrofit. The identity of the remaining two launch carriers, one in Europe and the other based in South America, could be revealed as early as the end of this week, says says APB vice president sales Patrick LaMoria.  “The other US majors are also very interested in the 767 winglet,” he adds.

767 winglet

The aero structures specialist joins existing APB winglet supplier Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Winglets for the 737 Next Generation and 757 retrofit lines are produced by Austrian-based Fischer Advanced Composites. Despite the much-needed addition of GKN, APB says the 737 ’Classic’ retrofit line is sold out through 2009 at the rate of six shipsets per month. “We’re still going to ramp-up as fast as we can, but it will be the end of this year or early next before they can begin providing the first parts,”  says La Moria.

Meanwhile, United is expected to become the latest major 757 operator to announce selection of the blended winglet to reduce fuel costs. The airline, which currently operates 97 757-200s, is expected to start by retrofitting aircraft from September onwards. Other 757 winglet customers include American Airlines, Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines, while LaMoria adds that others including Delta Airlines are “very interested.”

A leased American 767 will be provided for an eight-month flight test certification program, beginning in January 2008, with the supplemental type certificate expected around October-November 2008, says LaMoria. The 3.35m (11ft) tall winglets are expected to reduce fuel burn by between 4% and 5%, and could extend range by more than 600km. American plans to install winglets on its entire fleet of 58 767-300ER aircraft, saving at least 290,000 gallons of fuel per aircraft per year. American expects to modify all of the aircraft by mid-year 2010.