Psst, wanna "blended winglet" with your order? While that might sound like some new food that will be advertised during prime time TV and sold at chain restaurants, blended winglets are those little upticks on the end of a plane's wings. As you can see from the press release after the jump, winglets are a good way to safe fuel. Alaska Airlines, one of the first three airlines to use the winglets, says the tips save about 100,000 gallons per year per plane. Not too shabby. Considering ways that airline suck down fuel, it's important how all these little changes really add up. For example, by carrying 20 fewer gallons of water on each flight, a 737-800 will use 3,000 fewer gallons a year. Now, if they could only serve some tasty blended winglets as the in-flight meal, we'd be in business.
[Source: Alaska Airlines]

Alaska Airlines Flies First Winglet-Equipped 737-900 as Part of Broad Initiative to Save Fuel, Reduce Emissions

SEATTLE, Nov. 15 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Alaska Airlines announced today it has introduced its first 737-900 equipped with blended winglets, which reduce fuel consumption by about 3 percent -- or some 100,000 gallons annually per aircraft. The winglet-equipped aircraft is the latest in a series of fuel conservation initiatives the airline has undertaken to lower operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Since 1998, these efforts have reduced the amount of fuel Alaska Airlines uses to transport one customer one mile by 30 percent. The cumulative savings of more than 144 million gallons of fuel through 2006 is equivalent to about 5.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity -- enough to power all 259,500 homes in Seattle (2000 census) for more than two years. The savings represent a 16.4-percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions (3 billion pounds), which is equivalent to taking 271,000 cars off the road for one year.

"Reducing fuel consumption has been a key focus at Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air for many years," said Bill Ayer, chief executive officer of Seattle-based Alaska Air Group, the airlines' parent company. "Our conservation efforts not only allow us to maintain competitive fares for our customers, they also help reduce our company's impact on the environment."

The airline industry contributes 2 percent to 3 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

"We will continue to find new ways to conserve fuel and reduce our emissions through large- and small-scale projects," Ayer said.

Alaska Airlines is the first of three carriers to retrofit its 737-900s with winglets, which are manufactured by Aviation Partners Boeing. The airline plans to retrofit nine of its 12 aircraft of this type by late 2008. Alaska already has retrofitted its 737-700s with winglets and its 737-800s come equipped with them from the factory. By the end of 2008, Alaska will operate 74 Next-Generation 737s with winglets, representing 64 percent of its 116-aircraft fleet.

Other fuel-saving efforts under way include:

Fleet transition: Alaska Airlines will replace its remaining 16 MD-80 aircraft with new, fuel-efficient 737-800s by the end of 2008. Each Next-Generation 737 burns 18 percent less fuel than an MD-80. Annual fuel savings: 645,000 gallons per aircraft (based on average utilization of 11 hours a day).

Efficiency on the ground: The airline will introduce electric- and diesel-powered units, which supply cabin air and electric power while aircraft are parked on the ground, at its five largest stations by 2010. The new units can be used instead of onboard auxiliary power units (APUs), which run on jet fuel. Annual fuel savings: more than 2 million gallons. Reducing the use of APUs also lowers noise levels on the ramp.

Satellite-based navigation: In 1996, Alaska Airlines pioneered Required Navigation Performance (RNP), which uses a combination of onboard navigation technology and the Global Positioning System satellite network to allow aircraft to fly more direct routes with pinpoint accuracy, while reducing weather-related diversions and cancellations. The airline uses RNP at remote and geographically challenging airports throughout the state of Alaska, as well as in Palm Springs, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; and at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. Annual fuel savings: 240,000 gallons from flying more direct routes.

Catering carts: In 2006, Alaska Airlines finished retrofitting all of its aircraft with lighter-weight catering carts. Annual fuel savings: Nearly 300,000 gallons.

Potable water: Storage tanks on new 737-800s carry 20 fewer gallons of potable water, reducing aircraft weight while providing customers and crew with an adequate supply of water. Annual fuel savings: 3,000 gallons per aircraft.

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air serve 92 cities through an expansive network throughout Alaska, the Lower 48, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico. For reservations, visit alaskaair.com. For more news and information, visit the Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Newsroom at alaskaair.com/newsroom.

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