Airbus says initial flight test results of the ‘Sharklet’ winglet on the A320 show promising drag reduction results that indicate overall performance at or better than predictions.

Airbus SVP leasing markets Andrew Shankland says the device is on track to enter service on the A320 at the end of the year, and will follow on the remaining A318, A319 and A321 in 2013. “The results so far are probably as good, or slightly better than expected,” he adds.

Testing of the winglets, measuring almost 8 ft in height, has been underway on A320 development aircraft MSN001 and is expected to accumulate up to 300 flight hours says Shankland. The program is expected to be bolstered in May by the addition of the first new-build aircraft equipped with Sharklets. Test hours passed the 100 hour mark last month and so far indicate the modifications save more than 3.5% in fuel burn over sectors of around 2,000 nautical miles.

The winglet is expected to contribute around 2.4% in overall savings to the A320NEO configuration when re-engined with either the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G or CFM International Leap-1A. Overall some eight aircraft, including MSN001, will participate in the flight-test program which includes the various fuselage length A318 through A321 models, as well as both current engine options.

The winglet will be offered as an option for the A320 family, and could be offered as a retrofit depending on the outcome of on-going feasibility studies says Shankland. To-date the results of the study are “promising” and could result in the option being available for aircraft from 2014 onwards. Airbus is still narrowing down how early into the heritage production stream the retrofit could be applied. Shankland says the earliest applicable will likely be in the MSN 1000 to 1200 range.

Airbus meanwhile confirms it has increased the list price of the NEO option by $2 million to $8.2 million because of buoyant sales and higher oil prices.