Why Do Some Airplanes Have Winglets?

by Sohail Sawlani
Emirates A380 moments before landing

You peer out of your aeroplane window and study the design of the wing in detail. You notice a little “fold” at the tips of the wing and you wonder- what are they and what do they do? Through this article, you will learn about winglets and how they work.

737 MAX-8

A Boeing 737MAX with sharklets © Boeing

What are Winglets?

Winglets are short bends at the edge of airplane wings. They were first created in 1897 by Frederick W. Lanchester and were designed to improve the efficiency of an aircraft by reducing drag from the tip vortex energy without winglets. Today, many aircrafts have such winglets including the Airbus A350 and Boeing 737MAX.

A Ryanair plane takes off

A Ryanair Airplane With Winglets Takes Off

Which was the First Aircraft with Winglets?

The Bombardier CRJ-100 was the first aircraft to have winglets in 1992. The CRJ-100 was the first member of the CRJ family, having 50 seats onboard. The aircraft entered service with Lufthansa CityLine on 19 October 1992. This was then followed by A330 and A340 in 1993/1994.

Now that we know what are winglets and how they came about, let us take a look at some examples of aircraft with winglets.

Airbus A350

The winglets that the A350 have are nothing out of the ordinary: all wingtips, like the ones the A350 have, help to reduce drag.

A Lufthansa A350 moments before landing

A Lufthansa A350 taking off

Boeing 737MAX

The Boeing 737MAX has a special type of winglet called the “Advanced Technology Winglet”. Normal aircraft winglets are usually on the top of the wing pointing upwards. However, that is not the case for the 737MAX for Boeing added a second winglet which is on top of the regular winglet, at the bottom surface of the wing. This further reduces the drag, increasing efficiency, and thus, resulting in fewer costs for the airline, which attracts them to purchase the aircraft.


A Boeing 737MAX with Sharklets | Source: Boeing

Boeing 777X

The Boeing 777X is Boeing’s newest aircraft. It has a typical winglet except for one thing- it folds. Due to the long wingspan of the Boeing 777X, Boeing decided to make the Boeing 777X’s winglet foldable. Its winglets will fold during flight, unfold during taxi and fold back again at the gate.

Did you learn about winglets through this article? Comment below.

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