Story by: Jack Harty @AirwaysJack, Correspondent for Airchive.com – Images courtesy: Jason Rabinowitz @AirlineFlyer, Eric Dunetz @SouthpawCapture, and @JetBlue
Updated: February 22, 2013 10:58am EST
Just days after celebrating its 13th birthday, JetBlue Airways unveiled their first Airbus A320 outfitted with Sharklets this afternoon. The conversion was done ahead of time, in house at the New York JFK base. Tail number N821JB, also known as Blue Yorker, is not only JetBlue’s first Airbus A320 to feature these fuel-saving devices, but it is also North America’s first Airbus aircraft to feature Sharklets.
Sharklets are wing tip devices for Airbus aircraft to improve their aerodynamics. They are able to cut fuel burn and emissions by up to four percent, and they are an option on new-build A320 Family aircraft. The Sharklets can offer up to an additional 100 nautical miles or up to an extra payload capability of 1,000 pounds. In today’s case, JetBlue’s aircraft was retrofitted with these devices.
As you look at the images above, the Sharklets may look quite similar to Boeing’s Blended Winglets which are on select Boeing 737, 757, and 767 aircraft. While the Boeing 737 Next Generation and Airbus A320 aircraft are direct competitors, Boeing became the first to offer a wingtip device to improve aerodynamics. Boeing’s Blended Winglets made their world debut in 2000 with German carrier Hapag-Lloyd Flug, and, since their introduction, the Blended Winglets have become a popular choice for Boeing customers. However in November 2011, an Airbus aircraft took to the skies for the first time with Sharklets, and AirAsia became the first operator to fly an aircraft with Sharklets in December 2012
In December 2011, Airbus anticipated a patent infringement lawsuit by Aviation Partners, Boeing’s Blended Winglet designer, and Airbus filed a lawsuit to have the court declare the Sharklet design was not copied from the Aviation Partner’s design. However, on July 31st, 2012, Aviation Partners escalated the patent dispute by asking a U.S. court to place an injunction on all new sales of Sharklet-equipped Airbus A320s. Aviation Partners stated that Airbus used proprietary information and data that was under a non-disclosure agreement. Hoever, the solution to the case remains unseen.
As JetBlue works to upgrade their inflight product, Blue Yroker is also one of JetBlue’s first Airbus A320 to have AC Power. Other airlines were behind JetBlue who pioneered LiveTV (DirecTV) who was also an in early adopter of extended legroom in Economy Class. In some cases, the legacy airlines and upstarts have caught up and surpassed them particularly with Wi-Fi and connectivity. JetBlue’s cabin service, free snacks, and LiveTV continues to win fans. The never complacent JetBlue is hard at work upgrading their inflight product as there have been very little changes within the last decade except the introduction of XM Radio and the Beta Blue email/text test from 2007. Internet based satellite WiFi is expected to debut this year due to a delay.
According to @AirlineFlyer, N821JB took to the skies on a test flight on Friday morning February 22nd. The first revenue flight is B6 Flight 643 JFK-SFO on Saturday February 23. Track it Here.