AOPA tests Tamarack active winglets

October 29, 2012

Tamarack Aerospace President Nick Guida thinks active winglets such as those used by his Atlas system will eventually replace passive winglets, once their improvement in efficiency is recognized in the marketplace. Passive winglets such as those found on airliners and business jets today impart a bending moment to the wing, due to the extra lift they provide at the very tip. Either the wing connection to the fuselage must be strengthened, or the winglets must be small enough to avoid extra strain. Either way, many of the benefits of having winglets are diminished, Guida said.

He is bringing what he feels is a better idea to the market—active winglets with small control surfaces that can turn off the extra lift of winglets during momentary high wing loads—such as in turbulence or steep turns. On an airliner, that is offset by up to 400 pounds of strengthening where the wing joins the fuselage, said Tamarack Vice President of Sales and Flight Operations Brian Willett. That extra weight offsets much of the benefit of having winglets, he said.

Guida’s invention at his Sandpoint, Idaho, factory uses a small Tamarack active control (TAC) surface on the flat portion of each winglet, where they mount to the wing that raise and lower symmetrically. In the cockpit and cabin, their effect is unnoticeable.

Willett provided a demonstration on a CitationJet two days before the opening of the NBAA2012 convention in Orlando. While banking he intentionally created between 2 and 3 Gs to demonstrate that his Atlas system (Active Technology Load Alleviation System) could instantly raise the control surfaces without pilot intervention. The amount they are raised depends on the amount of aerodynamic load placed on the wing. If the power to the computer system should ever fail, a warning light would come on and the jet would be limited to a lower maneuvering speed for the remainder of the flight. The flight occurred between Orlando Executive Airport and Melbourne, Fla.

The benefits of the new system, flown for the first time on the leased Tamarack jet just 10 days prior to NBAA2012, were apparent on the flight from Idaho to Florida. A climb to 41,000 feet took only 30 minutes, despite a performance chart indicating such a climb would take 43 minutes and reports from owners that it actually takes them still longer. Guida said he made no special effort for a maximum performance climb.

Because of the certification costs of approving Atlas for a jet, he first developed a system for a Cirrus SR22. That system will be offered for $59,000, but the main business plan is focused on certifying the system on the CitationJet. Certification costs are expected to be between $2 million and $3 million. The Cirrus system will be first to win certification. A first meeting with the FAA on the CitationJet system takes place in mid-November. The price for the CitationJet winglets will be $196,000 during an introductory period.

Eventually, the winglets could be available for other models of jets and single-engine piston aircraft.