Continuous innovation by means of research and development

As a service company Lufthansa does not run its own research and development department in the narrow sense of the term. Research and development as a general topic nevertheless features prominently. A large number of research projects and partnerships generate new findings and advance the progress of innovative ideas in the spirit of sustainable development.

Lufthansa is actively involved in research into alternative fuels. In mid July 2011 a biofuel test was started with an Airbus A321 on the Frankfurt-Hamburg route as part of an aviation research programme sponsored by the German federal government. The test was brought to a successful close at the end of December. One of the plane’s engines was tanked with standard jet fuel, whereas the blend for the other engine contained 50 per cent conventional kerosene and 50 per cent HRJ biosynthetic fuel. HRJ consists of vegetable oil from the jatropha plant, camelina and other fats that are produced to exacting environmental standards. In the course of the test, which was entitled BurnFAIR, the effects of the alternative fuel on engines and emissions were tested on some 1,187 flights. Based on initial calculations, the test saved 1,471 tonnes of CO2.

Also in July 2011, Lufthansa and the Jülich research centre started a programme of long-term observation of the Earth’s atmosphere using scheduled aircraft. For this climate research initiative specially developed equipment on board a Lufthansa Airbus A340 measures atmospheric trace elements and in future also aerosols and cloud particles during the flight. After every flight the data is gathered digitally, processed and analysed. The overall goal is to develop a global measurement infrastructure around the Earth’s atmosphere that will enable better observations of climate developments with the help of civil aviation.

The project is named IAGOS (In-service Aircraft for a Global Observing System). It was launched in 2011 after a development phase of several years and includes 15 European project partners. The use of measuring instruments in scheduled aircraft makes it possible to gather large quantities of data, which could not be achieved by operating purely scientific flights. Climate research has a long heritage at Lufthansa: IAGOS is already the fourth climate project sponsored by the Group to date. For nearly two decades Lufthansa has been the only airline in the world involved in climate research and air quality.

Starting in autumn 2011 and after extensive testing, the container fleet at Lufthansa and Lufthansa Cargo is being replaced successively by new containers made of light compound materials. In the period up to 2015, this will initially entail replacing the small containers that fit in the lower decks of passenger and freight aircraft. The new containers will enable weight savings of 15 per cent. This in turn is forecast to reduce annual kerosene consumption by around 2,180 tonnes and CO2 emissions by around 6,800 tonnes. The lightweight containers meet all the relevant standards and also require fewer repairs than the conventional aluminium boxes.

The aircraft cabins are also to benefit from another climate-friendly alteration. Since summer 2011 new flight trolleys developed by LSG Sky Chefs have also been brought into service on the Lufthansa fleet. The previous service trolleys are gradually being replaced by the new lightweight version known as the Quantum Light Weight Trolley. Over the next three years almost 30,000 of the new aircraft trolleys will go into service. The new galley carts not only make working on board easier for flight attendants but are also a real bonus for the environment, as they are a third lighter than the predecessor model. This reduces kerosene consumption by around 9,000 tonnes a year and helps Lufthansa cut its CO2 emissions by some 28,350 tonnes. The trolleys have been used on intercontinental flights so far, where they have proved to be very practical. During trial operations in 2010 the Quantum Light Weight Trolley was selected by a jury of international airline experts for the Crystal Cabin Award in the category Greener Cabin, Health and Safety.

The successful installation of hush kits on the complete Boeing B737 fleet in late 2011 also made an important contribution to the sustainable reduction of aircraft noise. The hush kits reduce take-off and landing noise significantly, delivering substantial abatement of up to 2.4 decibels. This should provide considerable noise relief for residents in airport catchment areas.

With these and other measures we are supporting the 4-pillar climate protection strategy for the air transport sector. The ambitious environmental targets for our industry can only be met by a combination of technical progress, infrastructure improvements, operational measures and economic instruments. Additional information on the 4-pillar strategy for air transport and further comments on our research and development activities can be found in Balance, our sustainability report, and on our website

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