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SWISS equips entire Boeing 777-300ER fleet with AeroSHARK riblet films

SWISS will equip its entire Boeing long-haul fleet with fuel-saving AeroSHARK surface technology (earlier post). Starting in the middle of the year, a total of twelve Boeing 777-300ERs will gradually be fitted with the riblet films developed jointly by Lufthansa Technik and BASF. The significantly reduced frictional resistance resulting from this modification will make the sub-fleet more than one percent more fuel-efficient and lower in emissions.

Sharks are energy-efficient swimmers; sharkskin consists almost entirely of small placoid scales that shift independently to reduce friction. They increase buoyancy while generating low-profile vortices that reduce hydrodynamic drag and even add a thrust component. The faster the shark moves through the water, the more efficiently it does so.

AeroSHARK is a surface technology consists of prism-shaped ribs around 50 micrometers in size—known as riblets. It specifically imitates the properties of sharkskin, which has particularly favorable flow characteristics, and thus optimizes aerodynamics at relevant points on the aircraft. As a result, less fuel is needed overall.


Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) is the first passenger airline worldwide to use the innovative surface technology to reduce significantly fuel consumption and emissions of one of its existing fleets, thereby improving both economy and ecology.


Application of the riblet film on an aircraft. (Photo: Lufthansa Technik AG)

With approximately 950 square meters of riblet film, the modification of the “long” Boeing 777-300ER will be even larger than the 800 square meters on the Boeing 777F of AeroSHARK's launch customer Lufthansa Cargo. The potential for fuel and CO2 savings on this scale is around 1.1%.

Converted to the operational profile of the Boeing 777-300ER at SWISS, this means annual savings of more than 4,800 tons of kerosene and roughly 15,200 tons of carbon dioxide, as much as is usually generated on approximately 87 long-haul flights from Zurich to Mumbai.

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. AeroSHARK makes a significant contribution to this, and I am very pleased that SWISS is leading the way.

—Dr. Johannes Bussmann, CEO of Lufthansa Technik

SWISS will install AeroSHARK on its Boeing 777-300ER fleet successively from mid-2022 during suitable maintenance layovers. The airline had already supported Lufthansa Technik and BASF during the development phase of AeroSHARK; in the summer of 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 subsequently able to create highly accurate 3D models for flow simulations, on the basis of which the AeroSHARK modification is to be extended to the wings of the Boeing 777 in the near future in order to realize further savings potential. SWISS will also provide one of its aircraft for the STC flight to obtain the required Supplemental Type Certificate from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Lufthansa Technik and BASF intend to develop the new technology systematically further in the direction of additional aircraft types and even larger surfaces, so that in the future they will be able to provide airlines around the world with even more extensive support in achieving their emissions targets. In initial model calculations, the sharkskin technology in its maximum expansion stage could even avoid CO2 emissions by up to three percent.



Could also be handy for the Airbus "Project Sunrise" A350-1000's where they have to fly from Sydney to London in 1 hop.
As I said in an earlier comment, it is pity they can't laser etch this straight onto the external surface.


You might be able to mold such riblets into a composite surface, but etching it into aluminum would create millions of stress-risers which might increase the risk of fatigue cracking.  Besides, plastic is a lot lighter than aluminum.

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