During the recent Aviation Geek Fest, a reader of AirlineReporter suggested that I do a bit of a roundup of all the different “winglets” that are out in the aviation world (I wish I remembered you name). With so many different kinds of wingtip devices out in the marketplace, there needs to be a handy guide as to what they all are and what aircraft they belong to. But first maybe a little bit of background on what a winglet actually does.
In the late 1970’s, NASA engineer Richard T. Whitcomb took some research from the 1950’s and further developed what we know as the winglet. NASA wanted to see what would happen if they were to create a wingtip device that, with the correct angle and shape, could help reduce drag and increase lift, and also help break up the wingtip vortices.
Getting these benefits from the wing helps make flying easier and increases fuel efficiency – something that back in the 70’s wasn’t as crucial as it is now. How much fuel can you save by adding a winglet? On average, a 737 can save around 4% when compared to a non-winglet version. A winglet is really designed to save money when flying long distances at high altitudes, so long flights are where the most savings are realized.