Lufthansa Technik Developing Maintenance Processes for Hydrogen-Powered Aircraft

Potential fields of application of liquid hydrogen for future aircraft include fuel and the powering of aircraft systems such as IFE, galleys and satellite communications.
Credit: Hamburg Marketing

Lufthansa Technik’s (LHT) Hamburg base will soon become home to a research and development project that aims to build up maintenance and ground processes for hydrogen-powered aircraft.

The MRO is working with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Center for Applied Aeronautical Research (ZAL) and Hamburg Airport to design and test processes to handle hydrogen technology in preparation for future aircraft. The project, which will take place over the next two years, is being funded by the city of Hamburg and aims to jointly develop a pioneering demonstrator that will be operated starting in 2022.

“The aircraft of the future are lighter, more efficient and fly with alternative propulsion concepts. Hydrogen will play an important role in this,” says Markus Fischer, DLR deputy board member aeronautics. “We need to learn—promptly and in detail—the requirements on aircraft and maintenance of real-world operation with hydrogen on the ground.”

The first phase of the project seeks to identify the most urgent fields of development and to create a concept for subsequent practical testing. The partners will then test the concept on a decommissioned Airbus A320 family aircraft that is being converted into a stationary laboratory at LHT’s Hamburg base. The aircraft will be equipped with a liquid hydrogen infrastructure.

A parallel, virtual environment is being created at DLR to digitally map the project’s defined development fields. According to Fischer, DLR is “using this data and experience to develop digital models for ground processes. These digital process twins can then be used directly in the design of future-oriented and yet practicable aircraft configurations.”

In addition to serving as home base for the stationary A320 laboratory, LHT will be contributing its expertise in the maintenance and modification of commercial aircraft. It says it will also incorporate the customer perspective through its close contact with global airlines.

“There is no alternative to the transformation of our industry towards climate-neutral flying. With this project, we want to tackle this enormous technological challenge at an early stage—for the entire MRO industry as well as for us,” says Johannes Bussman, CEO of LHT. “In this way, we are actively securing the future, because we are building up know-how today for the maintenance and ground processes of the day after tomorrow.”

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.