Boeing unveils futuristic 'swallowtail' wingtip for 737 MAX

Boeing unveils futuristic 'swallowtail' wingtip for 737 MAX

The new design is expected to cut fuel consumption: So who will benefit?
Boeing 737 MAX
In the blue corner: the Boeing 737 MAX with "swallowtail" wingtips is due to take on the Airbus A320neo.

Innovation in wing design has long been a hot topic for aircraft manufacturers and plane-spotters.

Only a week after Airbus completed its first A320 with the "Sharklet" point-up wingtips (named after its likeness to shark's fin), Boeing announced an even more futuristic wing silhouette for its new aircraft family, the 737 MAX.

Named -- a touch prosaically -- as the Advanced Technology winglet, Boeing's new wingtip will divide in two -- with the upper tip slightly longer than the lower one -- to resemble a swallow's tail.

Airbus A320 SharkletAirbus designed the Sharklet wingtip especially for the A320 and A320neo."The concept is more efficient than any other wingtip device in the single-aisle market," said Michael Teal, chief project engineer for Boeing 737 MAX.

Teal said that the wings' bifurcated ends can maximize aerodynamic gain, but they won't add as much weight as a longer, single winglet would.

The "swallowtails" are expected to enhance Boeing 737 MAX's already sizable fuel-burn advantage.

Boeing has claimed that airlines flying the 737 MAX can expect to save 18 percent fuel per seat compared to flying today's A320.

And according to the Chicago Tribune, Boeing has also pointed to a five percent fuel-burn advantage over the A320neo, Airbus's next-generation aircraft due to debut in 2015, and the main competitor of Boeing's 737 MAX.

The "swallowtail" wingtip is expected to save the Boeing 737 MAX an additional 1.5 percent fuel.

The Boeing 737 MAX is a re-engineered aircraft family based on the Boeing 737 Next Generation. The first 737 MAX is scheduled for delivery to Southwest Airlines in 2017.

According to Boeing, it has received more than 1,000 orders or purchase commitments from 16 customers, including Southwest Airlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Lion Air. The company is due to finalize the jet design in 2013.

Whether the airlines will pass on the fuel savings to passengers -- in the shape of cheaper fares -- remains to be seen.