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Joe Clark- Aviation Partners- reveals how his products save time and money. You may be among those who notice little details when they go to the airports – you know who you are. You’re one of those who catches a change in airline livery before it’s news- or who catches the shift of corporate wings from one model to the next – even though the operator did their level best to make the change as innocuously as humanly possible.So when you start noticing G-II and Hawker ...

Dave Higdon   |   1st December 2006
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Dave Higdon Dave Higdon

Dave Higdon writes about aviation from his base in Wichita Kansas. During three decades in...
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Psst: Want A Hot Tip?

Joe Clark- Aviation Partners- reveals how his products save time and money.

You may be among those who notice little details when they go to the airports – you know who you are. You’re one of those who catches a change in airline livery before it’s news- or who catches the shift of corporate wings from one model to the next – even though the operator did their level best to make the change as innocuously as humanly possible.

So when you start noticing G-II and Hawker 800 business jets sporting new wing tips- it sticks in your head... or when you notice that almost every other Southwest 737 has suddenly sprouted winglets- you take stock.

As a matter of fact- you’re the witness to a phenomenon years in the making- a change that’s just hit its “tipping point”- as the man responsible likes to put it. What you’re witnessing is the ‘arrival’ of the Blended Winglet- a patented- tested addition to the tip of an aircraft’s wings that saves more than it costs in the airline world – and produces measurable benefits for the corporate aircraft so far blessed with a Blended Winglet designed for its use.

More than a mere cosmetic device- Blended Winglets do- nonetheless- give an aircraft a certain look of the future- a modern cache if you will that their creator says produces a measurable financial benefit upon re-sale value. But the main point of Blended Winglets is performance related- and in performance they deliver according to your demands: higher cruise speed on the same fuel; longer range at the same power; higher fuel efficiency at higher power. And- from the aesthetic angle- higher residual value at re-sale time.

Of course- you’d expect the guru behind this groove to be a booster – and the creator of the Blended Winglet- Joe Clark- is all you’d expect. But his is far from hyperbole when he recites the advantages of Blended Winglets – the product of his mind- imagination- creativity – and his company- Aviation Partners Inc.

And if you need any affirmation for Clark’s claims- save yourself some time and try to remember when Southwest Airlines ever adopted equipment or policy that hurt its bottom line. It’s like the old television advertisement for an investment house- the spot in which a room full of people lean in to hear what the promoted company had to say about an investment- with the voiceover line intoning- “When so-and-so talks- people listen.”

When Southwest sinks in bucks big enough to equip its entire fleet with Blended Winglets- well- plane folk listen – and watch and learn. And then they call on Joe Clark in Seattle.

Starting small- going big-time
Clark started his company in 1991 to develop a technology that reshaped and reduced tip drag- a product that could literally be bolted on and forgotten – except when eyeing the savings on fuel receipts- at least.

The laborious work proceeded a little differently than you might expect. Instead of focusing on tests of the theoretical using models in a wind tunnel- Clark and company acquired access to a Gulfstream II business aircraft- the target of their first Blended Winglet design. First they flew the G-II through hours of flights- dozens of hours painstakingly plotting performance numbers such as climb rates at set power levels- cruise speed and fuel burn numbers. With as many as 40 hours of data-collection flights logged- the team installed the prototype set of Blended Winglets on the G-II and repeated - flew - all the same tests through all the same data points.

Through careful data tracking- prototype adjustment and further flight tests- Aviation Partners came away with a set of bolt-on Blended Winglets for the G-II that worked. “By cutting drag- our Blended Winglets increased fuel efficiency 7.3%- boosted range 200nm and worked their best in cruise between Mach 0.74 and Mach 0.80-” Clark told World Aircraft Sales Magazine.

The result of this mod- the G-IISP- remains a success story even today- as the G-II approaches 40 years in service.

What followed the G-II success- however- is typical American entrepreneurship at work. Aviation Partners developed its special tips for the Hawker 800 business aircraft and Hawker 800XP- for the Boeing 737 business jets- 757 and 767 series airliners. And at the recent NBAA Convention in Orlando- Aviation Partners unveiled its latest project- a Blended Winglet designed for cruise speeds above Mach 0.8.

The so-called “Hi-Mach Winglets” are designed specifically for aircraft and operators who like speeding along at Mach 0.80 and faster – the point at which Aviation Partners’ previous winglets begin to suffer efficiency loss due to the proportionally higher drag that accompanies such high cruise speeds.

According to Clark- “Our new High-Mach Winglets provide range improvement of more than five percent at high-speed cruise- which translates to range improvements of up to eight percent at low-range power settings. We expect the fuel savings from our High Mach Number winglets to exceed what we’ve found in our regular winglets.”

With more than 1-500 aircraft equipped with Blended Winglets- Clark has a pretty good grip on the benefits of his products. For example- years of installing Blended Winglets on the G-II did nothing but solidify Clark’s grasp of the numbers. Likewise- with the Hawkers- the fuel saving is about seven percent; the range increase about 180nm; higher climb rates are achieved along with- higher initial climb altitude by 2-000 feet- and higher overall cruise speeds.

Watching the money
According to Clark- the effect of Blended Winglets on the typical airline airframe can be significant: “A 737 using our winglets will save upward of 100-000 gallons of fuel flying the same profiles and frequencies it flew without; the Boeing 757 will save upward of a half-million gallons per year- while the 767 saves upward of 600-000 gallons of fuel in a 12-month period. This puts the payback period for a larger airliner at well under 18 months.

And the results- if not the brevity of the payback period- are equally good on business jets – albeit with a longer payback period due to the lower number of hours business jets fly when compared to their airline brethren.

“Putting our winglets on your airplane is a lot like gaining a permanent 35-knot tail wind-” Clark said. “At least- if speed is how you want to use them; others will slow down and save fuel or find a sweet spot in between.”

Watching the money is one reason behind the partnership Aviation Partners-Boeing- which exists to supply new Blended Winglets to new Boeing aircraft. The AP-B partnership first closed on a deal to fit blended winglets on all new BBJ units – with nearly 120 sold- including the new BBJ3 recently launched.

The BBJ- with its extraordinarily long legs- benefits more from Blended Winglets than the typical Southwest Airlines 737. With the same percentage gain applied to the BBJ’s longer base range- the result is about an additional hour of flight time – on the same fuel supply – and who’s not a fan of free flight?

Cost benefit with benefits
Think of it this way; you install a set of Blended Winglets on your Hawker 800 for $425-000- plus the cost of painting and any wing touch-up work needed. The work takes about two weeks and the airplane returns to you ready to fly.

In the course of flying the airplane you find your fuel consumption at old cruise speeds to be down about seven percent. If the airplane flies 500 hours a year- that’s a saving of 35 hours worth of fuel. Over the course of the next four years- those fuel savings total 140 hours at about 1-400 pounds per hour- or 210 gallons per hour- for a total savings of $115-000 in fuel. Of course- the higher your use- the faster the savings accrue.

The above numbers don’t take into account time saved from flying faster- but you can see where- over the course of a decade- the winglets slowly pay for themselves – and help the aircraft hold a higher residual value at re-sale because of their tangible performance benefits and the aesthetics of a more modern look.

“We sell a lot of our winglets to people who are just buying their Hawker 800 or 800XP and then fold the costs of fitting the winglets into the finance package for the airplane- so it’s seamless and painless-” Clark noted. “And then the owners find they can get more for their airplane at trade-in time because they’ve installed the winglets- so they get money back on the resale- as well.”

If there’s any lingering doubt about the value of Aviation Partners’ products to the aircraft on which they fly- consider this one last observation: Some airframe makers have begun trying to create their own winglet design for their new models. But the proof in the pudding will come when one of those customers asks Aviation Partners to compare their factory-made winglets to the units designed- test flown and fitted by Clark and Company.

Best of all- the company’s attention to quality and detail makes the Blended Winglets virtually maintenance free. Constructed of the best aluminum and composite materials- the High Aspect Ratio Blended Winglets curve upward with an unusually large transition radius. The large radius transition from wing to winglet as well as the smooth variation in chord are the keys to the efficiency improvement brought by Blended Winglets.

And the weight increase – between 112 and 118 pounds on the Hawkers – is more than offset by the improvement in efficiency through the effective increase in wing span and lifting area.

Find out more information on Blended Winglets- and whether Aviation Partners can help your wings at: Aviation Partners- Inc.- PO Box 81107- Seattle- WA 98108. Tel: +1 206 762 1171: Fax: +1 206 762 1158: Email: info@aviationpartners.com: Web: www.aviationpartners.com

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