DBEA55AED16C0C92252A6554BC1553B2 Clicky DBEA55AED16C0C92252A6554BC1553B2 Clicky
July 17, 2024
Care to share?

Here’s a battle that sneaked up on the two big OEMs.  Obviously the threat has been known for some time, but it is now in the open.  The question is can the APB winglet, as seen on the 737, be regarded as IP that has been appropriated by Airbus as a “sharklet”?  Yesterday Airbus’ John Leahy spent considerable time explaining how his firm’s neo is going to trounce the 737 MAX.  His argument depends on two key features – new engines with bigger fans and “sharklets”.

Here is the chart Mr Leahy used to illustrate his point.

As you can see the “sharklet” essentially offsets the SFC cost of a larger fan with its associated drag.  Using the same logic, Airbus says they see the 737 MAX only offering  customers a 7% lower SFC over the current 737NG.

This is no storm in a teacup.  Each percentage point means serious money.  So the winglet war erupting now is serious.  If APB is able to demonstrate that Airbus infringes on their patent, then Airbus’ competitive argument is weakened.  Airbus no doubt will argue that the IP around winglets (sharklets, whatever) cannot be patent protected so broadly.  Watch for the war to heat up fast. Boeing and APB will use whatever they can to stymie neo sales.

2 thoughts on “The Winglet War

  1. It’s hard to believe that Boeing and Airbus are bickering over winglets 30 years after Dr. Richard Whitcomb bolted a pair to KC-135 in 1979. Heck even Burt Rutan had winglets on his 1975 VariEze. Personally I think both Airbus and Boeing deserve a kick in the pants for not getting them on their aircraft sooner.

  2. No reason the blame Boeing or Airbus. Its purely a question of economics.

    Rutan put winglets on the VariEze to increase performance. Economics didn’t play a role at all. When APB started selling its Blended Winglets there were many airlines that found it hard to make the business case. At 25 dollar per barrel oil things look completely different than at 100 dollar. While it was quite easy to retrofit 737s with winglets, it turned out that the outer wing of the A320 was too weak and needed to be beefed up significantly. That’s what Airbus did now and you can see the result: Because of the weight it adds the (advertised) 2,4 % reduction in fuel consumption from the sharklets is much less than what you are gaining from winglets on a 737.

    BTW: For the (failed) 767-400 ER Boeing has developed “raked wingtips” as an alternative which yields the same fuelburn improvements than winglets. That was in the late 90s. They have been used on all new Boeing airplanes since: the 777-300ER, -200LR and 777F, the 787 and the 747-8I /-8F as well as on the 737-based P-8A Poseidon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.