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SWISS becomes the first airline in the world to use AeroSHARK Technology

SWISS has become the first airline in the world to use AeroSHARK Technology. Let’s take a look at what this new technology is all about and how it works.

What is the AeroSHARK technology?

As the name suggests, AeroSHARK is a technology derived from the working of a shark’s skin. AeroSHARK is a durable bionic film that successfully mimics the skin of sharks and optimizes the airflow thus enabling significant fuel savings.

Lufthansa Technik, along with the leading global chemicals and coatings manufacturer BASF, developed a functional biomimetic technology: a film with a barely perceptible ribbed texture of small protrusions – riblets. Sized in patches for easy and targeted application, the film has millions of these prism-shaped riblets, each one 50 micrometers high. Applied to the aircraft in a specific manner and aligned with the airflow, the riblets achieve efficiency gains, by reduced friction, similar to those of their counterparts in nature, and can also improve lift if attached on wings.

Theory shows that replicating this skin structure on the fuselage of an aircraft can reduce friction by more than 2%. Extrapolated to the global fleet of aircraft, this translates into just under 5 million metric tons of fuel that could be saved each year. The riblet film has a durability of more than 4 years.

Riblet film being applied. Photo: Lufthansa Technik

What’s great is that the riblet film is easy to apply, even on large commercial aircraft like the Boeing B747. Up to 500 square meters of riblet film can be applied on a Boeing B747-400’s lower fuselage and belly fairing. The riblet film can be applied to any aircraft with a similar effect.

The riblet film is extremely resilient, withstands large temperature shifts, pressure differentials and the ultra violet radiation on high flight levels.

Combining BASF’s advances in coating technologies and application processes with Lufthansa Technik’s extensive experience in aircraft engineering, research and testing resulted in a unique solution. Some of the advantages of this technology are:

  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Scalability
  • Retrofittability
  • Susnaitability (not only because of its impact on fuel savings and emissions reduction, but also due to its lower manufacturing and application footprint compared to other technologies)

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Lufthansa Technik, along with BASF, has been testing this technology since a long time. By late November 2019, it was clear that the riblet film jointly developed with BASF’s Coatings Division was not just a theory that delivered results just on paper but was also delivering on its promise under real-life operating conditions, too. AVIATAR’s Fuel Analytics solution was used to sense any variations in fuel consumption pre and post modification down to 0.8%, accurately accounting for externalities such as weather conditions, flight profile and even minor impacts on the fuselage.

AeroSHARK. Photo: Lufthansa Technik

Lufthansa Technik first tested this technology by applying the riblet film on a Lufthansa Boeing B747-400. Initial results for the B747-400 with a lower fuselage modification showed a 0.8% friction reduction from the effect of AeroSHARK which translates into annual fuel savings of just about 300 metric tons of kerosene. This means a reduction in CO2 emissions of more than 900 metric tons per year.

Here are two videos about the ArroSHARK technology:

SWISS is the first airline to adopt this technology

SWISS International Airlines has become the first airline to adopt this carbon-efficient AeroSHARK film technology. SWISS’s first Boeing 777-300ER to be equipped with the new film – registration HB-JNH – carried its first revenue passengers on 14th October 2022. SWISS’s AeroSHARK programme is also supported by the Swiss Confederation via the latter’s special funding for environmental projects.

Riblet film being applied on a SWISS B777. Photo: SWISS

Our adoption of AeroSHARK is an excellent example of how we can use innovative technologies to make air travel more sustainable. Our aircraft fleet is already one of the most advanced and most carbon-efficient in Europe. Thanks to AeroSHARK, we can enhance these credentials even further in a field where every saving counts. We are proud to be the first passenger airline in the world to adopt this new technology. And we will continue to consistently invest in such sustainable solutions.

said Dieter Vranckx, CEO, SWISS.

All 12 of SWISS’s Boeing B777s will now be be gradually equipped with the new AeroSHARK film.

Featured image by SWISS

What do you of the AeroSHARK technology? Let me know in the comments section below.

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