By Neil Denslow
Oman Air has retrofitted Aviation Partners Boeing’s blended winglets on its three Boeing 737-800s.
Oman Air has retrofitted Aviation Partners Boeing’s blended winglets on its three Boeing 737-800s. The winglets, which were installed by Malaysian Air Systems, will cut the planes’ fuel burn by around 5%, and thereby cut the airline’s operating costs.
The Omani carrier had been looking at the installation of winglets for some time, but it had not previously considered them to be financially worthwhile. However, with the price of oil now topping US $60 per barrel, the airline’s sums have significantly changed. “We did evaluate it early on, but we found that it was not feasible when the fuel was cheap,” said Abdullah Al-Kindy, senior manager, development engineering, Oman Air.
“However, with the rapid increase [in oil prices] over the past year or two, we found that it is feasible now and that the payback period will be much shorter… around two to two and a half years.”
Oman Air’s -800s have an average utilisation rate of 3900 hours per year, and average stage lengths of 848 nm. As such, according to Boeing, the airline should save around 100,000 gallons of jet fuel per aircraft per year following the installation. The aircraft will also be able to depart Muscat 2000 kg heavier, which will enable them to leave fully loaded even at the height of summer. Oman Air’s pilots have also welcomed the winglets, as they have made the planes more stable and produced a noticeable increase in lift.“They like the aircraft much better now,” said Al-Kindy. “They say it makes a lot of difference as far as the handling is concerned.”
The installation was carried out last month in Kuala Lumpur, where Oman Air was Malaysian Air Systems’ launch winglet customer. The first installation took five days to complete, while the next two took just three days. “We had to chose from the outfits approved by Aviation Partners Boeing… [and] there are none in the [Middle East and Africa] region,” said Al-Kindy. “However, Malaysian is nearby... and we knew they are a good set-up.”
Oman Air is now considering the installation of winglets on its three 737-700s as well. These planes were not included in the original project, as they are mainly used on short-haul trips within Oman and the GCC. As such, they have a much shorter average stage length than the –800s. “It is only logical to concentrate on where we will see the most savings,” noted Al-Kindy.
Installing winglets on –700s is also more expensive than on –800s, as the wings need reinforcement work. It is also more time-consuming, which will force the airline to make a decision soon, as the work needs to be coordinated with C-checks. “If the company is going to maintain the –700s for an extended period... I would say [installing winglets] is the next step,” said Al-Kindy. “It might even be as soon as the first quarter of next year.”