Boeing 737 Winglets
Boeing 737 Winglets
Date Updated
March 26, 2008
Flight Controls
Winglets can be seen on many commercial airliners today. Winglets are wing extensions that provide several benefits to airplane operators as they reduce induced drag and increase overal operating efficiency. The aircraft will encounter less resistence during flight and will be able to operate more fuel efficient by, obviously, burning less fuel. The winglet option for the Next-Generation 737's currently lead the aircraft to be the most technologically advanced airplane in its class by decreasing fuel burn even further.

KLM Boeing 737
Transavia Boeing 737 with winglets
Air Berlin Boeing 737 with winglets
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Depending on the airplane type, its payload, the route flown and other factors, winglets have the potential to lowering operating costs by reducing fuel burn by approximately 3.5 to 4 percent on missions greater than 1,000 nautical miles. It furthermore, improves payload capability by up to 6,000 pounds (737NG) while boosting take-off and obstacle clearancing capability dramatically. Winglets not only reduce fuel burn, they also reduce community noise by .5 to .7 EPNdB, or Effective Perceived Noise Level in Decibels, on take-off and slightly on approach.

Winglet benefits:

  • Lower operating costs by reducing block fuel burn 3.5 to 4.0 percent on missions greater than 1,000 nautical miles
  • Reduce engine maintenance costs
  • Increase range up to 130 nautical miles
  • Improve payload capability by up to 6,000 pounds (.5 to 3 metric tons)
  • Improve takeoff performance and obstacle clearance
  • Increase optimum cruise altitude capability
  • Reduce community noise by 0.5 to 2.1 EPNdB (Effective Perceived Noise Level in Decibels) on takeoff and slight improvement on approach
  • Lower emissions through lower cruise thrust

The Blended Winglets, as they are called by Boeing, add approximately 5 feet to the airplane's total wingspan. They are either available as standard on newly acquired airplanes or through a retrofit, carried out by Aviation Partners Boeing.

So if these winglets are such a benefit, why won't operators install them on all their 737's? First of all, approximately 85% of newly acquired 737's is fitted with these blended winglets. Second, many current operators fit their aircraft through a retrofit operation. Prices for a set of blended winglets are somewhere around $725,000,- with an additional $25.000 - 80.000,- for installing them during a one week operation. After they have been installed, the winglets add an additional weight of 170-235 kg to the overal weight of the aircraft and depends on whether they are installed during production or a retrofit operation. Extra weight means extra fuel burn during flight so a trade-off has to be made with costs versus benefits. The fuel cost of carrying this extra weight will take some flying time each sector to recover, although this is offset by the need to carry less fuel because of the increased range. In simple terms, if your average sector length is short (less than one hour) you wont get much the benefit from winglets - unless you need any of the other benefits such as reduced noise or you regularly operate from obstacle limited runways.

At this moment Boeing is investigating possbilities into offering the blended winglets on widebody aircraft like the Boeing 767-300ER and Boeing 767-300F.

Any downsides to these winglets? Check out this video...

Transavia Boeing 737 with winglets Boeing 737 with winglets
Futura Boeing 737 with winglets
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