Continental Receives First Wingletted 757-300

Feb 4, 2009
Guy Norris guy_norris@aviationweek.com

Continental Airlines' first winglet-equipped Boeing 757-300 was delivered from Seattle to Los Angeles on Feb 3, clearing the way for the start of longer-range operations with the model, including transatlantic routes.

The completion also marks a new phase for the Aviation Partners Boeing modification program that has now been applied to more than 2,730 Boeing 737s and 757s. The blended winglet design is also in the process of being certificated on the 767-300ER and is being evaluated by Airbus for potential application on the A320 family.

Continental became the first U.S. major to order blended winglets when it ordered the modification for both retrofit on 757-200 and for production line fit on 737 Next Generations in April 2004. APB was awarded an FAA supplemental type certificate for the winglet upgrade on the 757-200 in May 2005, and officially launched the retrofit for the stretched 757-300 in June 2008 when it won orders from Continental and German tour operator Condor.

The drag reducing winglet has been adopted wholesale by Continental, which blamed fuel costs as a major factor behind its 2008 net loss of $585 million. The airline's consolidated fuel cost totaled $5.9 billion in 2008, a $1.9 billion increase over 2007, with mainline fuel costs totaling $4.9 billion, a $1.6 billion increase over 2007.

As well as the 757-300 fleet, Continental is continuing with efforts to retrofit other models. It installed winglets on 14 of 737-500 aircraft during the fourth quarter of 2008, and now has winglets on over 270 of its mainline aircraft.

All of the airline's 737-700s, 800s, 900s and 757-200s have winglets, as do some of the carrier's 737-300 and -500 'Classic' series fleets. Continental also recently revealed plans to lease four additional 757-300s from Boeing Capital Corporation, and expects to place these aircraft in service in the first half of 2010. These additional 757-300s are also likely to receive the winglet modification which, in the case of the stretch, is predicted to save up to $164,000 in fuel costs per aircraft, per year.

Photo credit: Joe Walker

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