SWISS equips Boeing 777-300ER fleet with AeroSHARK

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SWISS International Air Lines is set to equip its entire Boeing long-haul fleet with the fuel-saving AeroSHARK surface technology.

Image credit: SWISS International Air Lines

AeroSHARK has been developed jointly by Lufthansa Technik and BASF. It consists of ribs around 50 micrometers in size — known as riblets. The surface technology imitates the properties of sharkskin, which has favourable flow characteristics and optimises aerodynamics at relevant points on the aircraft. As a result, less fuel is needed overall.

Starting in mid-2022, a total of twelve Boeing 777-300ERs will gradually be fitted with the riblet films. According to SWISS, the significantly reduced frictional resistance resulting from the modification will make the sub-fleet more than one per cent more fuel-efficient and lower in emissions.

SWISS is the first passenger airline worldwide to use the AeroSHARK technology to reduce the fuel consumption and emissions of one of its existing fleets. With approximately 950m² of riblet film, the modification of the ‘long’ Boeing 777-300ER will be larger than 800m² on the Boeing 777F of AeroSHARK’s launch customer, Lufthansa Cargo.

The potential fuel and CO2 savings — around 1.1 per cent — would result in annual savings of more than 4,800 tons of kerosene and roughly 15,200 tons of carbon dioxide when converted to the operational profile of the twelve Boeing 777-300ERs at SWISS, as much as is usually generated on approximately 87 long-haul flights from Zurich to Mumbai.

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Dieter Vranckx, CEO of SWISS said: “Reducing our environmental footprint is one of the biggest challenges facing the aviation industry, and becoming carbon-neutral until 2050 is an important strategic goal for SWISS.”

SWISS had already supported Lufthansa Technik and BASF during the development phase of AeroSHARK — in summer 2021, a Boeing 777 wing was precisely measured for the entire duration of a regularly scheduled flight between Zurich and San Francisco. With the data collected, Lufthansa Technik was able to create highly accurate 3D models for flow simulations on the basis of which the AeroSHARK modification will be extended to the Boeing 777’s wings in the near future to realise further savings potential.

The airline will also provide one of its aircraft for the so-called STC flight to obtain the required Supplemental Type Certificate from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

“In developing our Novaflex Sharkskin surfaces, the focus was on a robust yet functional solution that meets the stringent requirements of aviation and also helps our customers achieve their sustainability goals,” said Uta Holzenkamp, head of BASF's Coatings division. “The fact that SWISS is convinced by our solution shows that economic action and sustainability go hand in hand.”

Lufthansa Technik and BASF plan to systematically develop the AeroSHARK technology for additional aircraft types and larger surfaces. In initial model calculations, the companies have reported that the tech could avoid CO2 emissions to the tune of up three per cent in its maximum expansion stage.