Lufthansa Cargo has decided to cover its entire fleet of eleven B777 freighter aircraft in fuel-saving AeroShark riblet film. The move was made possible by the Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) recently issued by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). EASA’s sharkskin go-ahead also affects Lufthansa Group member, Swiss International Air Lines' twelve Triple Seven passenger aircraft. The innovative riblet surface was jointly developed by multinational chemical company, BASF, and Lufthansa Technik.
A first Boeing 777-300ER equipped with AeroSHARK, as Lufthansa Technik and BASF have dubbed the new foil, had recently successfully completed a flight test program. During these flights, detailed proof had to be provided that the AeroSHARK modification had no negative impact on the operational safety and handling of the Boeing 777. Based on the data obtained in the trial, EASA has now issued the STC certificate, officially paving the way for the series modification of this Boeing widebody variant.
Small film, great effect
Thanks to the special surface structure of microscopic particles which mimic the structure of shark skin, the frictional resistance of the aircraft hull is lowered, enhancing the jetliner’s gliding ability. This reduces fuel consumption by around 1% per flight and thus saves on CO2 emissions. The foil will lower the Lufthansa Group's carbon footprint by more than 25,000 tons annually. Swiss is expected to save 400 tons of fuel annually, accounting for 1,200 tons of greenhouse gases. At Lufthansa Cargo, this amounts to 350 tons of fuel and 1170 tons of CO2 per year. It puts both airlines in pole position because no other carrier has yet covered its Triple Sevens in the sharkskin film.
Ten days’ worth of work
Asked about the time it takes to cover a Triple Seven in film, Lufthansa Cargo company spokesperson, Jacqueline Casini, said: “We intend to equip our first B777F, the D-ALFA, with the sharkskin foil, immediately. We have blocked a period of 11 days, from 14JAN23 to 24JAN23, to complete the gluing job. After that, the other freighters will follow suit. However, some of our Triple Sevens are scheduled to get the new foil in 2024, and the remaining three will be wrapped in sharkskin foil in 2026. This is due to longer laytime and aircraft paintwork.”
Presumably, that is not the end of the line, because in MAY22, Lufthansa Cargo ordered seven new B777-8 production freighters. In addition, four B777Fs belonging to the crane carrier’s fleet are currently flying in the livery of Leipzig-based AeroLogic, a 50/50% Joint Venture of DHL Express and Lufthansa Cargo. Ms. Casini commented: “Our Executive Board had already decided, at the end of 2021, to equip our entire fleet with sharkskin foil. We addressed this issue with Aerologic, however, there is no binding decision, yet.”
At Lufthansa Technik, they are already looking beyond their own corporate fleet, as Soeren Stark, Chief Executive Officer of the Hamburg-based engineering subsidiary confirmed: “With our partner BASF, we can now support our customers in making entire sub fleets more climate-friendly. Moreover, we intend to realize the use of the new technology for further aircraft types. We are the only MRO company in the world to offer such solutions to reduce fuel consumption and CO₂ emissions for commercial aircraft. We are naturally very proud of this.”
Dr. Uta Holzenkamp, Head of BASF's Coatings division and therefore also responsible for functional films, added: “Realizing such a project is only possible through cooperation in partnership and great trust in each other's expertise. Together, we have succeeded in developing a tailor-made solution that combines economic action and sustainability in equal measure.”
3% emission savings appear possible
That said, both industrial partners emphasized that they intend to consistently develop AeroSHARK further to equip additional aircraft types with the foil, thus supporting airlines worldwide in achieving their emissions targets. In initial model calculations, the sharkskin technology in its maximum expansion stage could even avoid CO2 emissions on the scale of up to 3%.
CFG first reported on this innovation in 2021: https://www.cargoforwarder.eu/2021/05/03/lufthansa-cargo-looks-sharp-in-sharkskin/
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