MIAMI — On Tuesday July 16, United Airlines became the first airline to fly and retrofit an aircraft with the new Split Scimitar Winglets. A United Airlines Boeing 737-800, N37277, took to the skies over Washington on Tuesday to test and begin the FAA certification process of the new design.
A somewhat similar split-tip winglet concept emerged in the mid-1980s with the introduction of the MD-11 which had an up/down winglet, with a shortened lower surface forward of the upper surface. A split-tip winglet design was also proposed for the McDonnell Douglas MD-12, but McDonnell Douglas opted not to build the double-decker and four engine MD-12. Besides the MD-11, there have not been any other split-tip winglets until the introduction of the Split Scimitar Winglets.
The first Boeing Next-Generation 737 received Blended Winglets in 2001. Through a joint venture with Aviation Partners, the first 737 with winglets rolled out of the paint hangar in Seattle on March 25, 2001 and first flew shorty thereafter.
Aviation Partners Boeing (APB) released the design of the new Split Scimitar Winglet design in 2011, and the 737MAX will have a similar winglet design. A retrofit program for 737NG aircraft was introduced earlier this year. Testing of the new design began last August when a 737 Boeing Business Jet was retrofitted.
In January, United became the first airline to announce plans to retrofit their aircraft with the Split Scimitar Winglets. When retrofitting an aircraft, the aluminum winglet tip cap is replaced with a new aerodynamically shaped “Scimitar” TM winglet tip cap and by adding a new Scimitar tipped Ventral Strake.
Boeing and APB say that the Split Scimitar Winglets will have a significant reduction in aircraft drag over the basic blended winglet configuration. For United, it is expected that the retrofit will result in up to an additional 2% fuel savings for their 737 aircraft. Further, APB expects that United can save more than $200 million per year in jet fuel costs once the new design is expanded to United’s 757 and 767 fleets.
Before the first retrofitted 737-800 aircraft can fly any passengers, it must receive airworthiness certification from the FAA which is expected in October. The first 737-900ER will be retrofitted in November, and airworthiness certification is expected in February.