Lufthansa Cargo looks sharp in sharkskin

No, it’s not a fashion statement. Instead, the airline will be improving its aerodynamics based on what it has learned from sharks. It will soon be coating its aircraft with AeroSHARK: A
foil that reproduces the features of sharkskin, which has evolved since the Paleozoic era, a good 500 million years, and gives the animals tremendous gliding ability. What has proven its worth in
the water could also be useful in the air, Lufthansa Cargo, Lufthansa Technik, and chemical producer BASF reasoned. The result of their joint efforts is an artificial sheathing layer for
aircraft, reducing kerosene consumption.

According to the three companies’ joint release published today (03MAY21), Lufthansa Cargo will equip its entire fleet of 10 B777 freighter aircraft with AeroSHARK. That’s what they call their
product foil that mimics the fine structure of sharkskin, consisting of riblets measuring around 50 micrometers each.

Copied from nature
Sharks were the role models because, unlike fish scale, their skin offers no resistance to the water and does not create eddies. Therefore, nature has created a perfect template for the aviation
industry because here, too, the focus is on optimal aerodynamic capabilities and the reduction of frictional resistance. Thus aircraft, while flying, resemble sharks gliding through the water.
 
Equipping the 10 Triple Seven freighters with the foil translates into annual savings of around 3,700 tons of kerosene and just under 11,700 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. This is the
equivalent of 48 individual freighter flights from Frankfurt to Shanghai, the release states.

Partnership-based approach
In a statement, BASF points out that there are similarities between the aviation and chemical industries since both face comparable challenges: “ongoing progress must be made with climate
protection despite high energy requirements,”
states Markus Kamieth, Member of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF. The manager goes on to say: “By collaborating closely, and
successfully combining our know-how in surface design and aerodynamics, we have now succeeded in taking a major step forward. This is an excellent example of sustainability in practice, achieved
through partnership-based collaboration and innovative technologies.”  


But just incasing the freighters with a sharkskin foil is definitely not enough since it is a material modification and requires official approval. Therefore, Lufthansa Cargo first has to obtain
a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for its 777F from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) – mandatory for operation – before the film can be applied.


“Thanks to sharkskin technology, we can further reduce the carbon footprint of our modern fleet. The investments we have made in rolling out AeroSHARK at Lufthansa Cargo consciously reaffirm
our commitment to the United Nation’s sustainable development goal on climate action,”
explains Dorothea von Boxberg, Chief Executive Officer of Lufthansa Cargo AG on the occasion. Equipping
the freighter fleet with AeroSHARK will commence in 2022.

Lufthansa Cargo B777F demonstrating the sharkskin foil – courtesy LCAG
Lufthansa Cargo B777F demonstrating the sharkskin foil – courtesy LCAG

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The new product is extremely resilient
The AeroSHARK solution was jointly developed by BASF and Lufthansa Technik. Their challenge was to come up with a product that is extremely durable and water resistant because the foil is
permanently exposed to strong UV radiation, including temperature and pressure fluctuations at high altitudes. Other criteria include its simple application and handling, and not least, it needed
to be easy to repair.


Johannes Bussmann, CEO of Lufthansa Technik AG wraps it up: “We have always used our wealth of expertise as a global market leader in technical aircraft services to also contribute to
reducing the ecological footprint of our industry. In doing so, we can leverage significant savings potential from all aircraft generations. I am therefore very proud that we will soon be able to
transfer the positive findings of the validation phase into the series application with Lufthansa Cargo,”
states the manager.
In a further statement he lauds the constructive collaboration with BASF during the product development. It is “the best example of cross-sector cooperation in the interest of the
sustainability of the aviation industry”
.


Lufthansa Group also follows green strategy
In a separate release today, the Lufthansa Group announced that the Supervisory Board approved the purchase of 10 highly efficient long-haul aircraft as it continues to modernize its fleet: five
Airbus A350-900 and five Boeing 787-9 aircraft will soon join the Lufthansa fleet; part of an upgrade that will see 175 new aircraft join the Group over the next 10 years to replace older
aircraft. The highly economical and fuel-efficient new versions enable a 30% saving on fuel and CO2 emissions, and thus make a major contribution to the Group’s sustainability initiatives.


Carsten Spohr, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of Deutsche Lufthansa AG said: “Even in these challenging times, we are consistently investing in more modern, more economical, and
lower-emission aircraft. Due to anti-cyclical opportunities, we are modernizing our long-haul fleet even faster than we had planned to before the pandemic began. The new aircraft are the most
modern of their kind. We want to further expand our global leadership, among other things through innovative premium products and a state-of-the-art fleet – especially because of our
responsibility towards the environment.”

Heiner Siegmund

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Source: Cargoforwarder

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