Passing competition with ease

Airbus A350

Slimmer, less hungry, trimmed to maximum efficiency: With a total of ten new A350 900, Lufthansa will equip its fleet at Munich airport with the most modern and environmentally-friendly long-haul aircraft during the next two years.

The aviation industry worldwide does not only belong to the fastest-growing but also to the most innovation-eager branches altogether. More and more room and weight capacity and technical comfort are offered by modern machines, and at the same time reduce the tare weight, and - along with this - the fuel requirement. This is possible primarily on account of the collective intelligence, with which the current machines, such as A350 900, are being developed. Many of the suppliers of materials and technologies are developing and optimizing individual components passionately and meticulously. Altogether this results in the most modern long-haul aircraft in the world.

Dr. Martin Sonntag

Dr Martin Sonntag, Head of Material Development Chemical Engineering Construction at REHAU.

Dr. Martin Sonntag manages the development of high-performance materials on polymer basis at REHAU. He is proud of having made an important contribution to A350 900 with his work. "For many years we have developed RAU-FLIGHT - a composite material which is used in the cabin area of the new A350 900. RAU-FLIGHT consists of minute hollow-glass microspheres which are embedded in plastic without air pockets. It is fire-resistant and at the same time lighter, thinner and more load-bearing than previously used materials, and permits the production of especially thin-walled components. We are very pleased to be part of the most modern long-haul aircraft on the market. The numerous orders of the A350 900 show that the aircraft fulfills the requirements of the large airlines in an ideal way."

For the largest German airline Lufthansa, the modernization of their fleet by purchasing the new A350 900 is an important step to be prepared for the future. Year by year the worldwide passenger volume in scheduled air services rises by five percent on average. On the other hand, there are fierce battles for each passenger because never before has the competition been so mighty than today. The conditions for German airlines to assert themselves on the worldwide passenger market are not especially favorable, not least because of the different taxation. One of the main competitors, i.e. Emirates Airlines with their home base in Dubai, needs to pay only a fraction of the airport charges, for example, than Lufthansa in Frankfurt and Munich. Another problem, which is applicable mainly for the Near East, is the close interlink partly between state and company which is reflected by the favorable kerosene prices and the singular tax rebates. Thus, the only possibility remaining here to assert themselves against worldwide competition frequently is to concentrate on the technological upgrading of the fleet.

Less weight and fuel - more technology and comfort

Cost savings can be realized primarily by means of kerosene consumption. Thus, during the last ten years, the share of fuel in the total costs of the airlines amounted constantly between 25 and 30 percent. Apart from improved engine technology and aerodynamics of modern aircraft, lighter materials primarily have high weight and/or fuel savings potentials. In case of a medium-range aircraft, such as the Airbus A320, a weight reduction of only ten kilograms could save approx. 2,000 liters of kerosene per year. Given a fleet volume of more than 360 airplanes (status 2015), an enormous savings potential results especially for Lufthansa which compared to the competition pays off primarily with respect to shorter reaction times for the modernization of the fleet. Thus, the new A350 900 achieves record values in the worldwide aircraft slimming competition. In comparison: The previous model, i.e. A340 300, has a service weight of 176,990 kg and offers seats for 221 passengers. In the basic version, the A350 900 has more than 293 seats (48 business class / 21 premium economy / 224 economy) and weighs only 130,700 kg!


300x magnification: Embedding of tiny glass bubbles in the polymer matrix.

This is possible primarily by using state-of-the-art lightweight materials in the whole machine. More than 50 percent of its fuselage is made of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP): Lighter than conventional steel constructions, but with the advantage that any damaged fuselage segments can be replaced easier and cheaper. Apart from the loss in weight wanted, the risen comfort requirements of the passengers are taken into account during the flight. Mobile broadband internet, new lighting concept, Mood Lightnings and larger screen for the on-board program, however, require numerous new electric components. In order to make space for cable ducts and electric systems, but to limit the weight increase involved as well, especially developed materials are used here.

On account of the favorable weight characteristics, polymer plastic materials, such as RAU-Flight, are used for the most part, which stand out for their least possible deformability and elasticity, heat resistance and very low inflammability. RAU-FLIGHT made by REHAU was used to produce the bumper systems, cable ducts, seat rail covers and skirting boards. Compared to previously used materials, approx. 10 percent was saved in weight. It is material innovations like these which in total have rendered possible such big reductions in the tare weight of A350 900. 

Less consumption of kerosene reduces environmental pollution.

Apart from the reduction of the operating costs, the new machines also contribute to a lower environmental pollution. After all, as from 2020 growth in the entire aviation shall be ensured without a further increase in carbon dioxide emissions. The entire aviation industry has committed itself to this goal. And by 2050, the companies want to halve the CO2 output compared to 2005. Lufthansa will come much closer to this target with the ten new A350 900. The Chairman of Deutsche Lufthansa AG Carsten Spohr stated: "Even from the viewpoint of the environment and efficiency, the A350 is an asset for the customer, residents near airports and for us as airline: It uses 25 percent less kerosene, produces 25 percent less emissions, and is about 50 percent quieter than comparable types of aircraft. Within one year, we have received the third new aircraft model of A350 for our company's fleet of aircraft." And this is only the beginning. In total, forty new airplanes will be delivered to Lufthansa during the years to come. In total, two billion Euros will be invested to be able to compete in the battle for passengers and environmentally friendly flight techniques in future as well.