Rather than designing and building entirely new aircraft every few years, aircraft manufacturers often introduce performance improvement ‘updates’ to existing aircraft. This is exactly what Boeing has done with its best-selling aircraft, the 737.
In 2011 Boeing introduced a number of performance enhancements to the Next-Generation 737 that reduced fuel consumption and emissions by 2%.
The 737 Performance Improvement Package comprises technology designed to both reduce drag and improve propulsion efficiency to reduce fuel use and CO2 emissions. Among other changes, the package:
- 1: Replaced the upper and lower red manoeuvring light assemblies with a more aerodynamically designed shape to reduce aerodynamic drag. The upper skin was revised, and no electrical interface changes were required to accommodate the new lights;
- 2: refined wing control surfaces, such as reducing the thickness, minimising gaps and altering the shape slightly of some of the wing control surfaces;
- 3: re-contoured the five rear wheel-well fairing assemblies to smooth the airflow near the main landing gear, reducing airplane drag;
- 4: included changes to the CFM International engines that contributed additional reductions in fuel use and CO2 emissions.
More than 1,500 of the performance-improved aircraft have been delivered so far. And the technology isn’t just restricted to new 737s straight off the production line: it can be retrofitted to existing aircraft, allowing airlines to improve the environmental performance of their existing fleet.