tip off

Airbus A319 with sharklets makes a timely first flight

Hmm. How would this look in Qantaslink livery?

The first A319 with sharklets leave Hamburg, on an unclear day: Airbus photo

One of the truest comments every made about the use of wingtip fences on single aisle jets early this century was uttered by Virgin Blue CEO Brett Godfrey in 2005, when another reporter challenged him over buying them when they only delivered fuel burn reductions over longer distances than the east coast inter city flights that at that time accounted for greater part of that airline’s operations.

“Because they looked sh*t hot,” he said.  With a smile. The place was Boeing Field south of Seattle and the occasion was the roll out of the only true blue body painted Virgin Blue 737 ( a -700) which was about to take the operational fleet to 50 jets, although the airline had churned its way through more than 60 of them through leasing turnovers by then.

At the time the added efficiency of the wing tips in terms of reduced fuel burn was cancelled out by their additional weight over distances like Sydney-Melbourne.  That is less so today, as wing tip designs are themselves refined, and especially so for airlines like Virgin Australia and Qantas where the average flight stage of such single aisle jets is long enough to readily result in a net benefit.

Which brings us to the timely first flight of a ‘sharklet’ equipped A319 in Europe on Friday, between the Airbus factory in Hamburg, and the Airbus factory in Toulouse.  There is only one A319 in Australian operations at present, the Antarctic Division ‘ice’ jet that currently does most of its flying shuffling boat people from Christmas Island to Nauru, and on occasions, back to Sri Lanka.

But that could change if the signs that Qantaslink is moving to add a new jet to its lineup in addition to Boeing 717s materialises in the form of A319s, or the A319 NEOs, with the sharklets optional on the former, and integral on the latter, when that new engine optioned airliner goes into service from 2016.

Yes, the term ‘sharklets’ is a bit naff. Maybe ‘codlets’? No?


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  • 1
    Posted November 24, 2012 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    What is that thing hanging off the tail?

  • 2
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted November 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    That’s a drogue that measures airflow speeds and detects whatever changes the wing tip devices cause to the slipstream through smoothed or reduced vortex generation which may in turn influence the behaviour of the vertical and horizontal stabilisers in the tail of the aircraft in a different measure than predicted in the modelling.

    I’m sure there are technical papers that describe this in better detail.

  • 3
    Posted November 24, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink


  • 4
    Posted November 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Whatever they are called Godfrey was right.

  • 5
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 3:52 am | Permalink

    If the 1500 or NEO’s on order 28 are ordered as A319s. 20 for Qatar, 8 for Spirit. The rest is for A320/A321s..

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