Last week’s announcement that Jet Blue Airways will install noise-reducing vortex generators under the wings of its A320-family jets signaled the further spread of the noise-reducing devices.
Installation during heavy checks is relatively easy. JetBlue bought the parts from Aviation Technical Services. The vortex generators are installed underwing, forward of the fuel over-pressure ports. Because installation requires mechanics’ access to fuel tanks, it needs 12 to 24 hours for fuel vapors to dissipate after the tank is emptied. This is well within the time-span for Jetblue’s regular heavy checks, which generally take two to three weeks.
The carrier hopes the reduction in approach noise, which it puts at up to 6 decibels, will please residents in its flight paths, especially near New York JFK, Long Beach, California, and Boston Logan.
The push to reduce A320-family noise began in Europe. Vortex generators were significantly developed and tested by Lufthansa and the German Aerospace Center, and in 2014 Lufthansa became the first airline to start operations with an Airbus A320 equipped with the devices. All older A320-family aircraft at Lufthansa and SWISS have now been retrofitted with vortex generators. Retrofitting of Austrian Airlines' A320 family is expected to be completed in 2019. The majority of Eurowings’ A320s already has vortex generators, and the rest, including former Air Berlin aircraft, will be gradually retrofitted.
All of easyJet’s new aircraft delivered since September 2014 have been line-fitted with vortex generators. In 2015, the carrier put together an engineering program to modify existing aircraft. By the end of September 2017, over 93% of easyJet’s A320s had been equipped with vortex generators, and all are now.
In the U.S., United Airlines was the first carrier to begin installing vortex generators on its A320-family several years ago. There are still a significant number left to equip in the multi-year modification project.