Flying Stories
May 14, 2013

Last week, I flew a monster of a four day trip.  As domestic airline pilots, we are limited to thirty flight hours in a seven day period. (Well, until the rest rules change… but, that’s another post for another day.)  My last trip was only ten flight segments but totaled twenty seven hours and fifty minutes.

Every once in awhile, especially on a four leg day, it’s nice to have something to break up the monotony of airline flying.  On day two, we had the opportunity to take our newest jet for a spin.  It was a quick trip to Las Vegas and then back to San Francisco.

Our latest Airbus delivery is a little different from the rest: The wings have sharklets.

The sharklet is the large piece on the end of the wing that points up.  On a Boeing, they are called winglets. (Legal battle, anyone?)  Basically, the sharklet reduces the amount of drag caused by air swirling off the end of the wing.  Less drag means better efficiency.  Airbus has advertised a 3.5% reduction in fuel burn on aircraft equipped with sharklets.  With today’s high jet fuel prices, the savings should be substantial.

A view of the sharklet from ground level

A view of the sharklet from ground level

After 4,500 hours of flying with the standard Airbus wing-tip fence, I was a curious to see how the aircraft handled.

The captain flew the leg to Vegas.  He commented that the aircraft felt a little more stable during climb-out and approach.

It was my turn on the way back to San Francisco.  I also noticed subtle differences in its handling.

On the upwind, I felt the aircraft required slightly more control input than a standard A320.  If you’ve ever flown an Airbus, you know the stick requires very little input for control movements.  With as much time as I have in the jet, my brain pretty much knows instinctively how much to move the stick.  I found I was consciously adding ever so slightly more input than normal.

On approach, I agreed it was much more stable.  I found myself making less overall corrections to stay on path.  The sharklet jet flew similar to the simulator: Once I set an attitude, it didn’t drift.

I also thought the aircraft hovered a little more in ground effect.  After flying the FMS Bridge Visual, I arrived over the threshold of 28R on-speed but floated a little more than I would of liked.  It was one of those landings that the wheels “settled down” onto the pavement when the jet decided it was done flying.  Not hard… just a plunk.

Overall, I think the jet has a much better “look” and “feel.”

I’m curious to take one on a transcon so I can witness the 3.5% fuel savings.

Our new "sharklet" aircraft sitting at the gate in San Francisco

Our new “sharklet” aircraft sitting at the gate in San Francisco

About author

Renewed Pilot

I've endured a roller coaster career in the U.S. Aviation Industry. Currently flying the 737 on my third try with the same legacy carrier, I have also flown for a regional, fractional and start-up carrier. My piloting experience includes the 737, A320, 727, Citation Excel, Citation Bravo, Saab 340 and many light singles and twin engine aircraft. I reside in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee.

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There are 4 comments

  • Mike says:

    Could you describe the new duty rest rules and how they will impact the type of flying that you and Virgin do?

  • Matt says:

    Hello, just stumbled upon this blog recently and its become a favorite
    Always enjoy my flights on VX and the cabin crews I encounter
    on my SAN-SFO or LAX-DFW/SEA trips have been great. Keep up the good
    work! Nic to see the sharklets by the way.

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