Qantas’ Boeing 737-800s are getting a new look

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New wing tips are being added to 23 Qantas aircraft, said to be a small change with a big impact.

Travellers may start to notice the airline’s Boeing 737-800s look a bit different after getting the tips installed, as they will have an extra blade below the wing.

The point of the new split scimitar winglets is to reduce vortex drag while the plane is flying, which in turn will mean fuel savings, carbon emission reductions and they can increase the distance the aircraft can fly.

“When a plane is flying, air is flowing over the top and bottom of the wing creating a long spiral at the tip. It’s called a vortex,” Qantas aircraft maintenance engineer Adam Stringer explained.

“You can sometimes see these spirals trailing behind the aircraft wing, especially when it’s raining or it’s misty weather.

“Even though these spirals look impressive, they create drag, which is not ideal. Drag places additional resistance on the aircraft, which means you need to use more power and more fuel to counteract it.

“What makes these winglets so special is that there’s two tips.”

They reduce the amount of air from swirling around the end of the wing.

One winglet takes more than 500 man-hours to install and test but Qantas said the fuel efficiency of each aircraft will be improved by up to two per cent.

The new winglets are expected to have been installed on the 23 aircraft by the end of 2026 and at this point the airline said it’s expected to save 8000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year or the equivalent of taking more than 3300 cars off the road.

Qantas told it was currently in the process of completing the installation on the first of the 23 aircraft, likely to be spotted on international routes such as Melbourne to Bali and Sydney to Fiji.

Qantas’ Boeing 737-800s and 717s are being gradually retired over the next decade but the 23 aircraft with the new wing tips will be the last to go.

Qantas Group chief sustainability officer Andrew Parker said the fleet renewal program will see more fuel efficient aircraft join Qantas, including the new Airbus A321XLRs and A220-300s, but these changes helped in the meantime.

“While we keep adding more fuel efficient aircraft, we’re focused on improving the operational efficiency of our current fleet,” he said in a statement.

“The new winglets are one of the many changes, small and large, that customers will notice as we transform our operations to be more sustainable.”

The Qantas Group has committed to make an average of 1.5 per cent per year fuel efficiency improvements by 2030, reduce carbon emissions by 25 per cent by 2030 and reach net

zero emissions by 2050.

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