SWISS Plans Shark-Inspired, Eco-Friendly Fleet Modifications

Credit: Lufthansa Technik

Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) is hoping to make its long-haul fleet fast as a shark through a new eco-friendly modification project. It has announced plans to become the first passenger airline to install fuel-saving AeroSHARK surface technology on its fleet of Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

The AeroSHARK technology, jointly developed by Lufthansa Technik (LHT) and coatings specialist BASF, uses riblet films that mimic the properties of sharkskin, which has favorable flow characteristics. The companies say the riblet films optimize aerodynamics at relevant points on an aircraft by significantly reducing frictional resistance.

According to LHT and BASF, the technology will save around 1.1% of fuel and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Once installed on all of SWISS’s 777-300ERs, they say the modification will provide savings of more than 4,800 tons of kerosene and 15,200 tons of CO2—equivalent to what would be generated by approximately 87 long-haul flights from Zurich to Mumbai.

SWISS says the project is part of its plans to become carbon neutral by 2050. It will install the technology on its fleet successively from mid-2022 during maintenance layovers.

AeroSHARK being installed on Lufthansa Cargo's Boeing 777 freighters
AeroSHARK is also being installed on Lufthansa Cargo's Boeing 777 freighters.
Credit: Lufthansa Technik

The airline also played a role in the development of AeroSHARK by enabling measurement of a 777 wing during the full duration of a regularly scheduled flight between Zurich and San Francisco, which helped LHT and BASF create 3D models for flow simulations. SWISS will be providing one of its aircraft for the flight required for the technology to obtain its Supplemental Type Certificate from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.

“Due to the long lifecycles in our industry, we cannot only rely on new aircraft generations to reduce our environmental footprint, but also need to specifically optimize existing fleets towards sustainability,” says LHT CEO Johannes Bussmann.

Lufthansa Cargo became the launch customer for AeroSHARK in May 2021. It is currently equipping its 777 freighters with the technology. According to LHT and BASF, the modification to SWISS’s 777-300ERs will use 950 m.2 of riblet film, a larger surface area than the 800 m.2 installed on Lufthansa Cargo’s 777s.

Moving forward, LHT and BASF intend to develop the AeroSHARK technology further for additional aircraft types and even larger surfaces.

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.