United Airlines Boeing 737 fleet getting new winglets to cut fuel costs by millions

You may remember the urban legend that claimed that American Airlines saved $70,000 per year by simply removing one olive from each of its salads. It sounds too good to be true, since the airline made a change that passengers wouldn't notice that would save thousands of dollars. However, United Airlines is making a similar breakthrough that isn't an urban legend.

United Airlines has installed split scimitar winglets to its Boeing 737-800 plane and took it for a test flight. It was a successful run and the airline has decided to implement the winglets on all of their Boeing 737 planes. The winglets are designed to improve aerodynamic efficiency by routing air around it, thus cutting down on drag and using less fuel.

Boeing says this will cut fuel costs by 2% when factoring in only the 737 fleet, but along with their Boeing 757 and 767 fleet (who already have last-generation winglets installed), United Airlines says this will save them $200 million per year in fuel costs. That's an incredible savings for just a little bit of added metal to the airplane wing (although that isn't counting the money spent on R&D for the new winglet).

Of course, winglets have been around for awhile now, and several airlines use them, but this new split scimitar winglet is said to be much improved over the current models, providing even more efficiency. The winglets essentially add another fin to the plane's wing that faces downward, adding to the current winglet that points upward on the plane. The added winglet further reduce the vortices formed behind the wing, which increases performance even more than just having the upward-pointing winglets.

The new winglets will begin to roll out to the Boeing 737 United fleet starting at some point early next year, as further testing is still needed, as well as approval and certification from the FAA is still underway.

SOURCE: United Airlines