NBAA Convention News

Tamarack Explores New Winglet Offerings

 - December 2, 2020, 2:51 PM

Tamarack Aerospace CEO Nick Guida said the manufacturer of the Atlas active winglet system is expanding into new business, military, and commercial aviation markets. The company is adding another hangar to its Sandpoint, Idaho headquarters, on the hunt for up to six more engineers and technicians to join its staff of 31 there, growing its consulting arm, and recently opened a new service and installation center in Aiken, South Carolina. The first customer aircraft was inducted into that facility in late November and its opening brings the number of company service centers to three—Sandpoint, Aiken, and Oxford, UK. Tamarack also has five dealers in Europe and one in Brazil. 

The moves come after Tamarack emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in March. The company voluntarily entered Chapter 11 in 2019 following the one-month grounding of 92 Cessna CitationJet-series airplanes with Atlas active winglets after several uncommanded upset reports. The problem was traced to an errant screw contacting a system circuit board, and Tamarack quickly fashioned a solution involving the screw and changes to the system’s control unit. Guida said suppliers, customers, and shareholders were made whole and that the company “not only made it through this nonsense, but we are stronger than before because of what we went through as a team and the validation of our product.” 

Atlas winglets are currently installed on 115 Cessna CitationJets, and Tamarack plans on having installed 20 this year and projects 40 in 2021. But Guida revealed that the company also is working on two unspecified military airframe projects that he hoped to be able to reveal within the next six months.

However, by way of example only, he discussed the merits of installing Atlas on Dash-8 and King Air turboprop surveillance aircraft and C-130 transports. Guida noted that on the first two, Atlas could not only provide more time on station but also enable dispatch in high-hot conditions when the aircraft would otherwise be grounded. For the C-130, he suggested that the system could improve performance while reducing structural fatigue and increasing scheduled heavy maintenance intervals. 

Guida added that the company is investigating Atlas for other lines of business jets, specifically the Bombardier Challenger 600 series, and commercial airliners such as the Airbus A320. He said the winglets could provide 12 to 18 percent fuel savings on this Airbus airframe versus 4 to 5 percent from passive winglets, adding that the impact of Atlas in reducing an operator’s carbon footprint could be profound, especially in light of European Union emissions targets.

He estimated the cost of developing Atlas for the narrowbody market at $30 million but did not rule out forming a partnership for that purpose or licensing the technology. According to Guida, the company would likely fly the system under an experimental certificate first before pursuing a full-blown development program. “We’re going to blow their minds and go from there,” he said.    

With regard to the Challenger, Guida said the addition of Atlas would likely eliminate or raise its ceiling for a step climb, enable an improved useful load, and boost range by up to 15 percent. He would neither confirm nor deny that the company is working with eVTOL developers. 

On the subject of carbon reduction, Guida pointed out that Atlas is available now as opposed to other synthetic fuel, airframe, and engine technologies that remain in work or pose a significantly higher cost. And compared to passive winglets currently in use that can add substantial structure weight of from 500 to 2,000 pounds on a commercial twinjet, Atlas on a typical CitationJet adds just 75 pounds, an amount more than offset by additional fuel, passenger, and high/hot capabilities. For example, he said an Atlas-equipped CitationJet could take off from Telluride, Colorado—elevation 9,026 feet—up to 1,000 pounds heavier than that same aircraft without the system. 

Tamarack has begun discussions with insurers with regard to the increased safety margins its active winglets bring to CitationJet operations, particularly those conducted single-pilot, by enabling shorter runway requirements. Guida stressed that the added flight stability Atlas brings to the aircraft reduces a pilot’s temptation to come in hot and high, the leading cause of runway overrun accidents.

“Owner-flown, single-pilot aircraft get in trouble with runway overruns and this provides a higher margin of safety for these guys who otherwise might come in 10 to 15 knots hot because it makes the plane more stable. You can also use less braking and maintain better control,” he said. 

Atlas takes about eight days to install. Main components include the winglet, wing extension, load alleviation system, electronics, wiring, and paint. Guida said the cost of the system, about $250,000 on a CJ2, accrues immediately to a concomitant value increase of the aircraft according to valuation services such as Vref. Flying 300 to 400 hours per year, he claimed the typical owner can recapture costs within two to four years, depending on fuel prices.

But beyond valuation and cost recapture, Guida said that the winglets already are bringing extra operating capabilities and value to operators in the form of longer legs, more nonstops, less pollution, the ability to climb higher faster, and use of shorter runways.