Partly to be a good corporate citizen and partly in response to some local community pressures, JetBlue Airways is adding noise-reducing vortex generators to its existing fleet of 138 A320-family aircraft. Some other operators of older A320-family jets will probably do the same, sooner or later.
Since 2015, JetBlue has been taking delivery of new aircraft with the vortex generators. The small devices disrupt wind over ports on the wing that can produce a whistling tone during approaches to airports. Joe Bertapelle, director of strategic airspace programs, says the enhancement is being added to make JetBlue a good corporate citizen at its destination cities.
The devices will be installed on existing A320s and A321s during scheduled heavy checks, with completion expected in 2021. The full retrofit is expected to cost less than $1 million, or about $7,000 per aircraft.
Done during a heavy check, this should be an easy and quick upgrade. The vortex generators are small vanes that reduce noise generated by airflow over the circular pressure equalization ports of fuel tanks. The vanes are simple 5-centimeter pieces of sheet metal mounted upstream of the ports.
Early-production A320s created the whistle just before landing gear and flaps deploy for landing. With the vortex generators, noise is reduced by up to 4 decibels 10 miles from an airport and about 2 dB at six miles. The increase in takeoff weight, and thus fuel burn, is trivial.
The silencing move was not entirely spontaneous. Elected officials in Boston, one JetBlue airport, have been requesting operators of A320s to add the vortex generators for several years. And representatives of Huntington Beach, California, which JetBlue aircraft fly over, have also been pressing for quieter flights. Pressures for airport noise reduction are widespread in many countries. Other major A320 operators in Europe, such as British Airways, EasyJet and Lufthansa, have also added vortex generators.
All A320-family ceos and neos come with vortex generators now. But there are about 7,500 ceos flying, a substantial portion of which do not have vortex generators, and a large portion of which fly in noise-sensitive Europe and North America. In the U.S., American Airlines, United Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines and the Virgin America portion of Alaska Airlines are significant A320-family operators.