Colloquium: December 1, 2015

The Evolution of Winglets to the Max

Robert D. Gregg III

Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 2:00 P.M. in Pearl Young Theatre in the Integrated Services Building


Winglets have become a common feature on many passenger aircraft. The form of winglets has evolved over nearly 40 years since the inception by Richard Whitcomb (NASA Langley), but the function has remained constant: reduction of fuel burn and emissions. Getting ready for a maiden flight in early 2016, the latest version of the 737, the 737 Max, is the most fuel efficient 737 to date. Changes include new higher bypass engines and a number of aerodynamic improvements, including a new Advanced Technology Winglet. This talk includes the history from Richard Whitcomb’s initial concept followed by flight demonstrations performed on the DC-10 under the NASA ACEE (Aircraft Energy Efficiency) Program, leading to the first generation of production winglets. The drive for improving fuel efficiency and reduced emissions has resulted in the continued refinement of the winglet concept, leading to the current 737 Max winglet. The 737 Max winglet and design features will be presented.


Robert Gregg is the Chief Aerodynamicist for Boeing Commercial Airplanes with technical leadership responsibilities for aerodynamic requirements, processes, configuration development, and compliance. He also leads the Boeing enterprise Computational Fluid Dynamics efforts. In 2011, he lead the Flight Sciences efforts on the configuration development for the 737 MAX, 787-10X, 767-2C, and 777X, along with managing the Flight Sciences Technology portfolio. He has over 37 years of experience in aircraft development, advanced aircraft and aerodynamic concepts, and technology research. He has many patents on wing and airfoil design concepts for efficient transonic transports, powered high-lift concepts, and short takeoff and landing configurations. He received a B.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the University of Illinois and an M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California.