There is a rumor that AA
will, within the next few years, say 3 to 6, replace the oldest 40 or 50 MD
-80s with 737-800s. These are planes with a lot of cycles that need more and more maintenance.
Since the 737 has been moved to MIA
must fly MD
-80s on routes out of ORD
to the West Coast. That means a lot of MD
-80s are flying routes of 3:30 to 4:30 flying time. MD
-80s flying these routes would benefit from winglets.
How much winglets hurt performance on short hops is open to debate. My wife flew WN
last week on MDW
on a 737-700 both ways. So, WN
must not be seeing dramatic decreases in performance on short hops.
The problem with adding winglets to MD
-80s, besides cost of installation, fuel savings, and how much longer AA
intends to fly the MD
-80, is wingspan. AA
was hestitant to put winglets on the 737-800s, because it cut down on the number of gates in which a 737 can park. A 737NG without winglets can park in a gate which can accomodate an MD
-80. But with even the 5 extra feet of wingspan, the 737 now needs a 757 gate.
If the winglets add 5 feet to the MD
-80 wingspan, then it could make some of the gates at ORD
unusable. Considering that gate changes at ORD
are very frequent, that could really cause problems, particularly when the weather wrecks havoc with the schedule.
It seems to me that instead of a blended winglet, the MD
-80 might need a fence, so that the wingspan doesn't increase very much.