MIAMI — United has not flown their first passenger plane outfitted with split scimitar winglets today in regular operations. The airline confirmed to Airchive that the airplane was was recently taken in to have the winglets removed following flight testing. Regular blended winglets were then re-installed. The split scimitar versions are expected to be installed into the fleet in February of 2014, following full FAA certification.
This update corrects an earlier version of the story in which sources had incorrectly confirmed to Airchive that the aircraft (reg N37277) was currently in the fleet and beginning its first commercial service. We regret the error.
Once entered into service the unique looking split scimitar winglets will be the latest generation of fuel saving wing tip devices. They promise significant drag reduction compared to a traditional winglet. United expects the new technology to result in approximately a two percent fuel savings for the 737, which may not sound like much, but adds up quickly. Across the entire United fleet, winglets of all types are estimated to save the airline more than $200 million per year in jet fuel costs.
“The Next-Generation 737 split scimitar winglet will provide a natural hedge against rising fuel prices while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions,” said United’s Vice President of Fleet Ron Baur.
Split scimitar winglets curve both up and down at the tip of the wing, while traditional winglets, as seen on current Boeing 737s (and the Airbus Sharklet variant), only curve up. The split design of the new winglet borrows some traits from the McDonnell Douglas MD-11, whose winglet was also split. The new 737 MAX will also feature a split winglet design.
United will begin retrofitting the rest of their its 737-800 and 737-900ER fleet starting next year, while the nearly 12 year old N37277, the first aircraft with the new style winglet, begins flight operations soon.