AAR Sees Promise In 737 Drag-Reduction Kit Partnership

Credit: ADL

AAR Corp. is confident that its growing partnership with drag reduction kit developer Aero Design Labs (ADL) will prove lucrative as Boeing 737 operators sign up for the new kits and similar fuel-saving products are rolled out. 

Publicly unveiled in June along with a supplemental type certificate for the 737-700, ADL’s aerodynamic drag-reduction system (ADRS1) is expected to reduce fuel burn 1.5%. For the 737-700, that translates into 40 tons of CO2 reduction per month, ADL calculates. AAR, which specializes in airframe maintenance and parts distribution, has been quietly working with ADL to support the kit’s development, AAR President and CEO John Holmes said on a July 21 earnings call, confirming that the partnership includes an investment. 

“We’ve actually been working with them for some time,” Holmes said. “And we have increased our investment in the company over that period of time. So we’re very bullish, both from an investment standpoint but also as it relates to the exclusive agreement that we’ve got in place to distribute the kits as they’re developed and produced.” 

The ADRS1 kit consists of several structural parts, including a revised wing-to-body aft fairing, modified flap track fairing tips, and several vortex generators. Made predominantly from composite structure, the kit weighs 180 lb. but results in a net gain of only 110 lb. after replacement of the original structure, ADL President and CEO Jeff Martin told Aviation Daily sister publication Aviation Week & Space Technology (AWST). The kit is expected to require around 150 work-hours to install, Martin said. Nordam will produce the bulk of production kits. 

Calgary-based carrier WestJet, which has 80 737 Next Generation (737NG) aircraft in its fleet, provided ADL with an aircraft and both flight test and engineering support and is expected to be one of the kit’s first operators. ADL is working on Transport Canada approval of the FAA’s 737-700 STC. It is also developing kits for larger 737 Next Generation (737NG) variants, including the 737-900ER, which will be done in partnership with Delta Air Lines. 

“Depending on the success of the testing program, we expect to roll out the kit on our 737NG fleet over the next few years,” Mahendra Nair, SVP of Delta Fleet and TechOps Supply Chain, told AWST. The carrier’s fleet includes 77 737-800s, 130 737-900ERs and it is adding 29 ex-Lion Air 737-900ERs. 

The 737NG in-service fleet includes more than 5,200 aircraft, Aviation Week Network’s Commercial Aviation Fleet Discovery database shows. Not including some sub-variants, 923 of these are 737-700s, 3,665 are baseline 737-800s, and the 737-900/-900ER model accounts for almost 460 more. 

“Given the price of fuel today, we expect that the airline community interest will be extremely strong in this solution,” Holmes said. “We were really happy to start this partnership very early with ADL.” 

The partnership’s offerings are expected to extend beyond the 737NG platform. 

“There’s a lot of opportunity to reduce drag across all airframes, and we’ve proven that we can solve it for the 737 Next Generation series,” Martin said. “And we’ll demonstrate that and move that across other fleet types.” 


Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.

Guy Norris

Guy is a Senior Editor for Aviation Week, covering technology and propulsion. He is based in Colorado Springs.