Fort Worth Aerodynamic Design Laboratories Aims to Help Delta Air Lines Save Fuel and Reduce Carbon Emissions with “Drag Reduction Kits” » Dallas Innovates


Flying an airplane can be a drag on the plane. Wind turbulence on the body of an airliner can create drag that increases fuel consumption, which increases costs and emits more carbon into the atmosphere. Now, a Fort Worth company is working to reduce that drag with kits developed by high-tech computer modeling. The result could be a win-win for airline bottom lines and the environment.

Aero Design Labs, based in Fort Worth, uses proprietary fluid dynamics software systems to create custom drag reduction kits for Boeing 737s, aircraft originally designed long before the emergence of advanced drag reduction technologies. streak.

“Unlike other fuel-efficient products, our design focuses on the entire airframe to deliver the best result,” ADL chief commercial officer Chris Jones told Dallas Innovates.

“We start at the farthest point upstream where the air is most disturbed, then design and iterate a series of improvements that work together to smooth the airflow and move it efficiently through the fuselage until get him off the plane,” Jones said. “Each part of the kit plays a role in capturing and redirecting airflow, providing a holistic solution to reducing drag.”

Pursuing additional FAA certifications

Partial view of the Aero Design Labs drag reduction kit installed on a 737-700 aircraft. [Photo: ADL]

Modifying anything on an airliner requires a rigorous approval process with the Federal Aviation Administration. Aero Design Labs received its first STC – a supplemental type certificate reflecting FAA approval of a modification – in May 2022. It was a drag reduction kit developed for Boeing 737-700s operated by WestJet Airlines.

Jones said Transport Canada is in the process of approving his company’s STC. “Once cleared, we expect WestJet to reinstall the kit on its aircraft and return it to revenue service,” he added.

Now, Aero Design Labs is seeking FAA approval in a partnership with one of the world’s largest airlines.

Partnership with Delta Air Lines

Chris Jones, Business Manager at Aero Design Labs [Photo: ADL]

On Tuesday, Aero Design Labs and Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines announced a memorandum of understanding that strengthens their partnership to certify Boeing 737-800s and 737-900s with ADL’s ADRS drag reduction kits.

The certification process for the 737-800 is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2023, followed by the 737-900 in the second half of 2023. Delta Air Lines 737NG fleet,” Delta announced Tuesday.

Mahendra NairSVP of TechOps Operations & Supply Chain Management at Delta, appeared at an announcement event in Washington, DC to discuss the project.

“Delta is excited to expand its partnership with ADL to test and certify the 737-900ER and 737-800NG drag reduction kits, continuing our investment in improving fuel efficiency and durability,” said Nair in a statement.

ADL’s Jones added that the partnership was “formed by Delta Air Lines and Aero Design Labs to contribute to the International Air Transport Association’s 2050 net zero reduction goals.”

The deal announced Tuesday gives Delta Air Lines the option to purchase up to 211 Aero Design Labs ADRS kits, ADL said.

Build “Original Aircraft High Definition Map”

ADL’s drag reduction kits have been developed with technology that did not exist when the Boeing 737s were first designed.

“Our kits are designed and developed with technology that was either not available at the time of manufacture or completely cost prohibitive,” Jones told us. “The 737 was designed long before sophisticated computers and CFD modeling were used in aircraft design. By creating a high definition digital map of the original aircraft, we are able to examine the original aircraft design and zoom in to see areas that were previously overlooked. We dial in a level of detail using Computational Fluid Dynamics which allows us to see disturbed airflow and improve in certain areas with our kits.

Aero Design Labs works with partners to deliver its kits

Founded by Executive Chairman Lee Sanders in 2015, Aero Design Labs partners with “highly specialized in their field” business partners to help develop and deliver the drag reduction kits.

“ADL has a very lean and efficient operating model,” Jones said. “We have a core of engineers who do our basic research and development, but we can rely on our partners for a significant part of our business.”

“Our CFD modeling is done by a company in the UK, under the supervision of our engineering team,” he added. “NORDAM in Tulsa will begin manufacturing the kits next month and, when complete, will turn the kits over to AAR, which is responsible for paint, distribution and 24-hour service parts support to customers. “

“We like this lean model because it allows us to have low overhead, while leveraging the scale and reach of highly valued business partners,” Jones explained. “Everyone has their swimming lane.”

Only works on 737 planes – for now

Jones said ADL is working on kits only for Boeing 737 variants at this time.

“Our goal is to deliver the highest level of benefits for saving fuel and carbon emissions,” Jones said. “Our proprietary process allows us to iterate designs in a computer and evaluate the benefits. This allows us to tinker with various combinations to deliver the greatest improvement.

“Each aircraft type in the 737NG family has a slight variation in our basic kit, but the basic design is the same,” he added. “As we move into other aircraft types, we will need to design and iterate an entirely new kit based on identified areas of opportunity.”

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