This aircraft fuel-saving technology is based on the skin of sharks

The innovation results in annual savings of around 400 tons of kerosene and more than 1,200 tons of carbon dioxide for each Boeing 777-300ER.
Loukia Papadopoulos
A plane equipped with Lufthansa's shark skin technology.jpg
A plane equipped with Lufthansa's shark skin technology.

Lufthansa  

Last week, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) granted Lufthansa Technik permission to modify two Boeing 777 variants with the fuel-saving AeroSHARK riblet films, a sustainability-focused innovation developed jointly by Lufthansa Technik and chemicals company BASF, according to a press release by the aircraft maintenance firm.

The new technology will now be installed on Lufthansa Cargo and Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) aircraft.

“Thanks to its special surface structure of microscopic ribs –  so-called riblets – AeroSHARK reduces the frictional resistance of the aircraft skin. As a result, the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are reduced by around one percent,” noted the statement.

“For each Boeing 777-300ER operated by SWISS, this means annual savings of around 400 tons of kerosene and more than 1,200 tons of carbon dioxide. The slightly shorter Boeing 777F saves around 370 tons of fuel and 1,170 tons of CO2 each year.”

First flights with the new tech already on the way

The first AeroSHARK-equipped Boeing 777-300ER of the Swiss airline had already begun daily operations in October. The first flights of this plane, conducted on September 8 and 9 2022 with the EASA, were undertaken to collect detailed proof that the AeroSHARK modification had no negative impact on the operational safety and handling of the Boeing 777.

The initial flights were followed by several weeks of evaluation of the collected data and other documents, such as measured values from flow simulations. The new decree issued by EASA will now allow Lufthansa Technik to apply the riblet films to any given Boeing 777-300ER and 777F aircraft.

This aircraft fuel-saving technology is based on the skin of sharks
Engineers installing AeroSHARK riblet films.

"The approval of AeroSHARK for the Boeing 777 variants is an important step in the distribution of this new technology for more sustainability in air transport," said Soeren Stark, Chief Executive Officer of Lufthansa Technik. 

"With our partner BASF, we can now support our customers in making entire subfleets 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."

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"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," further explained Dr. Uta Holzenkamp, head of BASF's Coatings division. 

"With the Novaflex Sharkskin functional film, we are helping our customers to achieve their individual sustainability goals and in this way make aviation measurably more environmentally friendly."

To be installed on several aircraft

AeroSHARK will now be installed on SWISS and Lufthansa Cargo’s twelve 777-300ERs and eleven 777Fs. The changes are expected to reduce Lufthansa Group's carbon footprint by more than 25,000 tons annually.

In 2020, Lufthansa operated its first-ever 100% carbon-neutral cargo flight.