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.