Airbus today flew one of its A320 jets with new winglets designed and developed by Seattle company Aviation Partners. The test flight could presage a big boost for Aviation Partners.

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Airbus today flew one of its A320 jets with new winglets designed and developed by Seattle company Aviation Partners.

The flight in Toulouse, France, is part of an ongoing Airbus evaluation to see if the up-swooping winglets can deliver significant fuel efficiency and performance benefits.

The test flight could presage a big boost for Aviation Partners. If the evaluation is positive, Airbus intends to offer the winglets to all A320 customers. More than 3,600 A320s are flying worldwide.

Aviation Partners spokesman Dick Friel said Airbus approached the Seattle company after disappointing results from fitting its own winglets and those of another winglet maker.

Friel said many airlines and other airplane manufacturers around the world have approached Aviation Partners to see if winglets could make a difference for their aircraft.

“Winglets are like radial tires,” Friel said. “You can fit them on any airframe.”

Aviation Partners, founded and led by Joe Clark, originally developed winglets and convinced Boeing to offer them on the 737. Today all 737s rolling out of the Renton plant are fitted with the blended winglets, and leading airlines including Southwest Airlines have retrofitted their entire fleets.

Aviation Partners has also developed winglets for the 757 and 767, and Friel said “plans are afoot” to develop them for the 777.

Winglets for Boeing planes are developed by a separate joint venture with the plane maker called Aviation Partners Boeing (APB). Together, Aviation Partners and APB employ about 100 people in design and development. The winglets are manufactured elsewhere by various subcontractors.

More than 3,000 airplanes worldwide are flying with Aviation Partners winglets. About 2,850 of those are Boeing airliners, and the rest are business jets such as the Gulfstream II.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com