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Topic: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: faro
Posted 2013-04-18 03:01:45 and read 7779 times.

If you can introduce a modification into your product that will give it a material advantage with respect to your competitors, why do you defer it over ten years ? Case in point : the sharkleted A320 launched around 2006 vs the competing 737NG launched in the early 1990’s.

Had Airbus implemented these A320 sharklets, say, in the second half of the 1990’s, it would have had an *undeniable* advantage over the 737NG series. Why then are sharkleted A320 just entering service in 2013 and not the early 2000’s?

Evidently, it was worthwhile since Airbus did finally go ahead and implement them but over ten years later...

Of the reasons one may consider:

• Complexity: In one Tech/Ops thread I recall one reply to this question that asserted that adding sharklets/winglets is not a trivial undertaking. However, we are not talking of re-winging/relofting or any major structural modification. At worst I would concede that it is a low-to-medium risk undertaking. Why then was this not done if it can give you a material advantage in terms of efficiency vs the 737NG? Picking that low-to-medium hanging fruit in order to have a clear fuel efficiency advantage in what is by far the biggest selling line of the industry’s product range (short to medium range narrow-bodies) would seem a no-brainer...;

• Development resources: Maybe Airbus didn’t have sufficient engineering manpower available at the time that they were launching the A330 series. Again though, the narrow-body line is the bread and butter of both A and B’s activity, and by the late 1990’s the A332 had been launched and substantially done with. Perhaps A anticipated that they would have to expand production facilities given the likely sales success of a sharkleted A320 vs the 737NG. Perhaps such potential expansion was hobbled/precluded by A’s strategic vision which was starting to be hazed-over by the VLA delusion at that time; maybe they wanted to conserve all technical resources for the upcoming A380...;

• Tacit ‘understanding’ not to rock the duopolistic narrow-body boat: The prospect of a sharkleted A320 would IMO not have deterred Boeing from launching the 737NG. The demand was there (domestic especially) and at worst they would have been obliged to sell at lower prices to provide customers with internal rates of return similar to those of a sharkeleted A320. Boeing simply had to launch the NG because the line accounted for a major proportion of their production activity, especially with the winding-down of 757 output. Perhaps A and B mutually and reciprocally ‘understood’ the non-sharkleted A320 to be advantageous to their production planning. After all, the standard A320 was still *extremely* competitive with the NG...

I find it quite inconceivable to believe that Boeing did not study in depth and document the risk of Airbus developing a wingleted A320 in the second half of the 1990’s when they launched the 737NG in 1993. I similarly find it inconceivable to believe that Airbus did not study in depth and document implementing A320 sharklets in the course of the 1990’s to produce an ‘NG killer’ A320 back then already. To my mind, there is a chance that this documentation is still sitting somewhere in A and B’s archives today...

I must admit that this remains a lasting mystery for me: just imagine the NG sales figures today if the sharkleted A320 had entered service in 2000...

What do you think? What was the reason for A waiting so long to launch the sharkleted A320?


Faro

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: KarelXWB
Posted 2013-04-18 03:06:52 and read 7760 times.

The answer is very simple: the fuel costs in the 90's were not high enough to justify the investment costs of sharklets/winglets.

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: faro
Posted 2013-04-18 03:22:09 and read 7689 times.

Quoting KarelXWB (Reply 1):

The answer is very simple: the fuel costs in the 90's were not high enough to justify the investment costs of sharklets/winglets.

But surely A and B design for the long term; an airliner will have a +20 year life cycle. And the concept of peak oil was already gaining ground at that time. Since the 1973 oil shock, I imagine any airline contemplating a +20 year investment will look very closely at fuel efficiency. I still believe that a sharkleted A320 in the late 1990's would have been a resounding sales success.


Faro

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: KarelXWB
Posted 2013-04-18 03:59:41 and read 7567 times.

Quoting faro (Reply 2):
But surely A and B design for the long term;

They do but Airbus and Boeing cannot predict the future. Therefore those jets can be upgraded - in this case with sharklets - during their lifetime.

Quoting faro (Reply 2):
And the concept of peak oil was already gaining ground at that time.

But still not high enough. Before the year 2000, fuel costs were less then 10% of an airline total costs, versus almost 40% today.

Quoting faro (Reply 2):
Since the 1973 oil shock, I imagine any airline contemplating a +20 year investment will look very closely at fuel efficiency.

Not really. Remember the Boeing 7J7? This was intended as a highly fuel-efficient aircraft but it was cancelled when the price of oil dropped during the 80's.

Airlines and manufacturers are only willing to make large investments when it makes sense. Airbus believed they didn't need winglets on the A320 in the 90's and I'm sure they did some studies on it.

Quoting faro (Reply 2):
I still believe that a sharkleted A320 in the late 1990's would have been a resounding sales success.

But the A320 was already a success in the 90's.

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: Speedbird128
Posted 2013-04-18 04:14:28 and read 7496 times.

Quoting faro (Thread starter):
the sharkleted A320 launched around 2006 vs the competing 737NG launched in the early 1990’s.

If I remember right Airbus had toyed around with winglets on the A320 before, but I guess aerod engineering has become a bit better than back then...

I think (and this is a thought/guess/pondering, so don't behead me for it) that the off-the-bat aerod on the airbus wings might be a bit better than average... hence it holding out for so long before having the sharklet designed?

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: Bongodog1964
Posted 2013-04-18 04:25:49 and read 7434 times.

Airbus have had a form of winglet for many years, whilst not as efficient as the Boeing design, not as efficient as their new sharklet, they obviously felt it was sufficent at that time. I recall that they did look at new forms of wing tip fences years back, but they couldn't at that time come up with anything that was sufficient improvement over what they had got for the economics to stack up.

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: airbazar
Posted 2013-04-18 04:48:18 and read 7336 times.

Quoting KarelXWB (Reply 1):
the fuel costs in the 90's were not high enough to justify the investment costs of sharklets/winglets.
Quoting Speedbird128 (Reply 4):

If I remember right Airbus had toyed around with winglets on the A320 before, but I guess aero engineering has become a bit better than back then...
Quoting Bongodog1964 (Reply 5):
Airbus have had a form of winglet for many years, whilst not as efficient as the Boeing design, not as efficient as their new sharklet, they obviously felt it was sufficent at that time.

I think the answer is: all of the above.
For such a small component they are pretty expensive.
In much the same way that today's computer models can predict weather much more accuratly than 20 years ago, technology evolution can result in a much better wingtip device today that it could 20 years ago.

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: moo
Posted 2013-04-18 04:57:29 and read 7286 times.

Quoting Speedbird128 (Reply 4):
If I remember right Airbus had toyed around with winglets on the A320 before, but I guess aerod engineering has become a bit better than back then...
Quoting Bongodog1964 (Reply 5):
I recall that they did look at new forms of wing tip fences years back, but they couldn't at that time come up with anything that was sufficient improvement over what they had got for the economics to stack up.

Airbus did look at new winglets before the current sharklet program, but it was determined that any added winglet would require strengthening of the outer wing, thus increasing weight and decreasing the single digit efficiency gains of the winglet anyway.

The new sharklets require less (or no, not sure which) strengthening of the outer wing, which is why they can be retrofitted to existing airframes. The difference in strengthening requirements is down to alleviation of aerodynamic forces on the wing - which is a direct result of increased computer modelling power.

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: breiz
Posted 2013-04-18 05:35:55 and read 7162 times.

Faro, you have been given the basic answer: too early in the 90s to provide a competitive edge.
One may also think that a given airframe design has a limited number of improvement steps in store.
Although airframes get hundreds of small modifications and updates, the big steps are few.
On a different time scale, computers are continuously upgraded. One could have the same reasoning that you put forward for the A320, why multiply calculation speed and capacity by 2 when you can already do it by 10?
The answer is that you want to sell as many computers as possible, and that you look good coming every year or so with something better.
Airbus had a good enough A320 versus B737, then improved it slowly to keep on par, and, with the A320neo, offers the final iteration before a completely new design.

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: scbriml
Posted 2013-04-18 05:43:08 and read 7139 times.

Quoting moo (Reply 7):
The new sharklets require less (or no, not sure which) strengthening of the outer wing, which is why they can be retrofitted to existing airframes.

It's not quite that simple - the required additional strengthening is included in the kit which actually replaces the outer wing section. It's certainly not just a case of bolting the sharklet on in place of the wing-fence.

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/art...ing-a320-sharklet-retrofit-381239/

Quote:
The change would take around three weeks and customers would probably schedule the retrofit to coincide with a C-check to minimise downtime.

It involves removing a "couple of metres" of the outer section of the wing, says Williams, and installing a replacement kit.

This includes fitting a "bathtub" structure, he adds, which provides local mechanical reinforcements, and reinforced skin and stringers, a task which requires removing part of the leading edge, wing skin and aileron.

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: moo
Posted 2013-04-18 05:50:40 and read 7101 times.

Quoting breiz (Reply 8):
On a different time scale, computers are continuously upgraded. One could have the same reasoning that you put forward for the A320, why multiply calculation speed and capacity by 2 when you can already do it by 10?
The answer is that you want to sell as many computers as possible, and that you look good coming every year or so with something better.

There are very real reasons why this is not a valid comparison, as computer processors are almost at the bleeding edge of commercialised physics as we know it - reduction in size of the die through the manufacturing process is what has enabled Intel and AMD et al to put more and more on the same package, reduce heat and power consumption and reduce time constraints between components on the die.

For example, in 1989 the fab process was at 800nm, while today it sits at 22nm.

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: lightsaber
Posted 2013-04-18 06:02:24 and read 7031 times.

Quoting airbazar (Reply 6):
technology evolution can result in a much better wingtip device today that it could 20 years ago.

  

Airbus' first attempt at winglets was in 2006 and they didn't provide enough benefit to justify the weight.
http://www.flightglobal.com/news/art...-test-a320-family-winglets-204861/

Oh, nothing in that link about the winglets. Just about how they were going to test. It took a major revision to launch the Sharklets.

Quoting faro (Reply 2):
Quoting KarelXWB (Reply 1):

The answer is very simple: the fuel costs in the 90's were not high enough to justify the investment costs of sharklets/winglets and technology had to progress to make it worthwhile on the A320.

But surely A and B design for the long term; an airliner will have a +20 year life cycle.

Both Boeing and Airbus have been burned in the past over-designing for improved fuel burn versus other customer concerns. They look for the 'return on investment.' In the 1990s, Airlines were willing to pay about 2 years of fuel savings for the benefit. Note, that is 2 years of the savings spread out over ten years (includes maintenance) and fuel savings at projected fuel prices. Now airlines will pay more for fuel savings (about 3 years of fuel savings costs amortized over 10 years). Partially that is due to lower interest rates reducing the risk of borrowing.

No one was taken seriously predicting $100/bbl oil in the 1990s. The economy back then couldn't have taken that pricey of oil. Instead, Airbus invested in reducing maintenance costs. Some of that investment resulted in greater cycle life for the A320. Now they need to fix the wing corrosion issue for airlines that fly short flights from near-ocean airports.

The A320s sold. They were 'good enough' versus the 737NG without sharklets until some of the more recent PIPs. e.g., Airbus is trying to get GE to move CFM-56-7 technology onto the CFM-56 for the A320.


Lightsaber

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: Aesma
Posted 2013-04-18 07:46:18 and read 6788 times.

Sharklets were certainly not launched in 2006, or we would be seeing sharkleted A32S everywhere !

Quoting lightsaber (Reply 11):
Airbus' first attempt at winglets was in 2006 and they didn't provide enough benefit to justify the weight.

Exactly. In fact I'm not even sure it was the first attempt. For sure it was the last one before relaunching the idea, testing several models and going through with it.

Also don't forget that, at least on the A32S with its modern wing and wingtip fence, the sharklet only makes a difference on long sectors. Until a few years ago not that many narrowbodies flew long sectors, and those which did were first Boeing products, in the US.

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: bobloblaw
Posted 2013-04-18 08:02:24 and read 6720 times.

I wonder about some of the questions on A.net sometimes. First thing I do is look at the persons age. Then I type nothing to let my instinctive response pass. Then I type a rational reasonable answer.

The answer is cost benefit analysis and good old NPV ( I see in your profile youre an accountant)

Youd notice that 738s and 73Gs for the most part didnt have winglets on them in the late 1990s either. Some did, but most didnt. Winglets cost money to purchase and mount. What was the price of oil from 1995-2000? Averaged less than $30 per barrel and in 1998-99 briefly fell to $10 per barrel. Also on short flights winglets are a negative as the added weight offsets the improved aerodynamics and in the 1990s most transcons and midcons were flown with 757s and bigger aircraft.

So here it is and I cant believe as an accountant you didnt catch this before asking.

There is a cash outflow for the purchase and installment of the winglets (sharklets). Over the life of the winglets, they will save on fuel expense. That cash savings is then discounted by the discount rate raised to some power for each subsequent year. If the discounted cash flow is greater than or equal to the initial cash outflow for the winglets, then you buy them. If not, you dont. When oil is cheap, the cash savings from winglets is very low making NPV most likely negative. So you dont buy them.

I am not an accountant but took classes

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: lightsaber
Posted 2013-04-18 11:36:17 and read 6441 times.

Quoting Aesma (Reply 12):
Exactly. In fact I'm not even sure it was the first attempt.

You are probably correct there. It was the first case with 'enough promise' to make it to flight test.

Quoting bobloblaw (Reply 13):
The answer is cost benefit analysis and good old NPV ( I see in your profile youre an accountant)

   And the cost of capitol for airlines results in a steep depreciation of future savings in the NPV calculation.

Quoting bobloblaw (Reply 13):
If the discounted cash flow is greater than or equal to the initial cash outflow for the winglets, then you buy them. If not, you dont.

With a risk variable added to the later discounted cash flow due to the initial belief that winglets would require far more maintenance than they have.

What has happened is the cost of winglets has dropped (mass production) while the savings have grown (oil prices and fuel is now a greater fraction of total expenses).

Quoting bobloblaw (Reply 13):
I am not an accountant but took classes

I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express.  

Lightsaber

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: bobloblaw
Posted 2013-04-18 15:39:27 and read 4766 times.

Quoting lightsaber (Reply 14):

Yeah I didn't consider winglet MX. But that should be in the equation.

So what is the major time factor for NPV. The life the the plane or the winglets? Can rather new winglets from a A320 built in 1999 be removed and put on a newer plane in say 2035?

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: HBGDS
Posted 2013-04-18 16:36:39 and read 4453 times.

Keep in mind that the sharklet technology was tested by NASA aboard a Continental DC-10 in 1981, but as others have pointed out, the cost of retrofitting was not worth it even in one of air transport's worst years, and even though both NASA and Continental were happy with the results.

http://www.taxiways.de/DC-10/history/DC-10winglets.html

There's also a nice account of the engineering process here:

http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11839&page=31

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: prebennorholm
Posted 2013-04-18 18:50:58 and read 3908 times.

Quoting faro (Thread starter):
What was the reason for A waiting so long to launch the sharkleted A320?

Winglets are not a simple add on thing. And please notice that when advertised that they save X% fuel, then it is always UP TO X%. For a number of reasons the actual saving will always be X% minus a considerable figure. In some cases the saving can be totally eliminated or even reversed to negative.

Winglets are installed with a toe-out angle which is carefully matched to a "medium" cruise angle of attack (AoA). But the actual AoA depends on a number of circumstances, IAS, altitude, payload, actual fuel load. Whatever your weight and altitude, you can vary your IAS to match that AoA. But engines are optimized to be the happiest at a specific IAS. Go faster or slower than that, and fuel consumption goes up. So if your winglets are not the happiest at that IAS, then you already lost some winglet gain.

Then comes the wind. Flying in headwind or tailwind you would want to fly faster/slower to optimize fuel burn. It means lower/higher AoA, and reduced/eliminated/reversed winglet gain.

At the end of the day, it is quite complicated to optimize the fuel burn figure on a wingletted plane, and in any case you loose some operational flexibility. And since you don't control the wind and the actual weight of the plane, and ATC wants a word on your altitude, then the "up to % value" is only a theoretical thing.

The simple wing fences on the A320 do not nearly offer the same potential saving, but they do not have these complications either.

The really good winglets, as we see them on 737, 757 and soon 320, really put a speed limit on the planes. The faster long range planes like 744, 330/340, MD-11 have shorter and more swept back winglets. For a good reason. If they had the long horns, then the upper parts would be hit by the accelerated wortex at transonic speed with very much increased drag as a result.

Therefore we will never see planes like 777 (non-200LR/-300ER) and 380 refitted with winglets.

Newer and faster planes like 777-200LR/-300ER, 787 and 748 have raked wingtips. They do not suffer from the winglet complications, but they do call for substantially stronger (and heavier) wing spars. Therefore raked wingtips will never become a retrofit. The 380 cannot take advantage of raked wingtips unless the airports allow wingspan greater than the present day 80m.

To me the 350 seems to be born with some "hybrid winglet/raked wingtip".

It sure hasn't been an easy task to design the 320 sharklets to guarantee an overall improvement over the wingtip fences in everyday operation when taking reduced operational flexibility and added weight and cost into account. Unfortunately winglets are not just some magic add on device.

Topic: RE: A320 Sharklets: Why 2006 And Not Late 1990’s?
Username: MMO
Posted 2013-04-19 05:12:37 and read 2208 times.

The sharklet mod to the 320 is very complex. The new builds have the modification built in to allow the installation of the sharklets if desired.

The wing of the 320 is very different than that of the NG/Max. The modification to the 320 require a redesigned leading edge along with a modification to the spar to allow the wing to accept the additional stress from the sharklets.

There had been studies a few years ago with a B6 aircraft and given the cost of fuel, it was not an economically feasible modification. However, given the volatility of fuel prices, now it's a different story.

From Airbus' point of view, the task could be done much earlier but there was not economic justification to allow the modification to go forward.


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