Hamburg makes aviation fit for hydrogen

Early testing of maintenance and ground processes for future aircraft

The aerospace industry in Hamburg is preparing for flying with
hydrogen. Therefore, the starting signal has now sounded for the
set-up of a new development platform. Over the next two years and
with funds provided by the city of Hamburg, Lufthansa Technik
together with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Center for
Applied Aeronautical Research (ZAL) and Hamburg Airport will design
and test extensive maintenance and ground processes in handling
hydrogen technology. For this purpose, an aircraft of the Airbus A320
family will be converted into a stationary laboratory at Lufthansa
Technik’s base in Hamburg.

Liquid hydrogen (LH2) is increasingly being more concretely envisaged
in the development departments of large aircraft manufacturers as a
sustainably producible fuel for future generations of commercial
aircraft. In order to investigate the effects of the use of LH2 on
maintenance and ground processes at an early stage, Lufthansa
Technik, DLR, ZAL and Hamburg Airport are now pooling their extensive
practical and scientific expertise. The aim is to jointly develop a
pioneering demonstrator, and to operate it from 2022.

As the world’s third largest aviation location, the Free and
Hanseatic City of Hamburg is funding the research project with the
largest single item in its special program to mitigate the economic
impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation industry.

“Hamburg is not just one of the three largest aviation clusters in
the world, last year the city also developed the clear vision of
becoming a major hydrogen metropolis,” explained Michael
Westhagemann, Senator for Economics and Innovation of the Free and
Hanseatic City of Hamburg. “I therefore see it as both a logical and
gratifying step to combine these two core competences of Hamburg. The
port, the energy sector, industry and the entire mobility sector are
involved and are preparing for this groundbreaking technology. With
this project, we are now also making an essential contribution to the
transformation of aviation into a climate-neutral mobility solution
of the future. The clear goal is to build up a hydrogen economy in
Hamburg that will occupy a leading position internationally.”

In the first phase of the project, by the end of 2021 the partners
aim to identify the most urgent fields of development for closer
scientific examination and, on this basis, to elaborate the concept
for subsequent practical testing. The practical implementation of the
concept will start at the beginning of 2022 and will involve the
modification of a decommissioned Airbus A320 aircraft. It will be
equipped with an LH2 infrastructure to be used as a fully functional
field laboratory at Lufthansa Technik’s base in Hamburg. In parallel,
a virtual environment is being created at DLR that will be used to
achieve digital and highly accurate mapping of the defined
development fields. The new development platform is to provide
inspiration for the design process of the next generation of aircraft
by means of parameterized and highly accurate virtual models.

Against this background, Lufthansa Technik will primarily contribute
its great operational expertise in the maintenance and modification
of commercial aircraft, and can also incorporate the customer
perspective through its close contact with airlines around the world.
DLR will add its long-standing and cross-sector experience with
hydrogen, and focus on the development of the virtual environment.
ZAL will also participate with its extensive know-how in the field of
fuel cell technology and its digital process mapping. As an
associated project partner, Hamburg Airport will primarily contribute
its experience from the operator’s perspective, for example in
defining requirements for the ground handling process of future
LH2-powered aircraft.

“There is no alternative to the transformation of our industry
towards climate-neutral flying. With this project, we want to tackle
this enormous technological challenge at an early stage – for the
entire MRO industry as well as for us. In this way, we are actively
securing the future, because we are building up know-how today for
the maintenance and ground processes of the day after tomorrow,”
explained Dr. Johannes Bussmann, Chief Executive Officer of Lufthansa
Technik AG. “I am therefore pleased that we have succeeded in joining
forces with strong partners in this project. And I am very grateful
for the foresight of the city of Hamburg and its generous funding for
this project.”

“The aircraft of the future are lighter, more efficient and fly with
alternative propulsion concepts. Hydrogen will play an important role
in this. We need to learn – promptly and in detail – the requirements
on aircraft and maintenance of real-world operation with hydrogen on
the ground,” said Dr. Markus Fischer, DLR Deputy Board Member
Aeronautics. “In the project, we are using this data and experience
to develop digital models for ground processes. These digital process
twins can then be used directly in the design of future-oriented and
yet practicable aircraft configurations.”

“The development of a field laboratory and a digital twin are
important components of Hamburg’s Green Aviation Technology Roadmap.
They were developed together with the members of the Hamburg Aviation
Cluster last year to strengthen Hamburg’s competence in research and
development in a European context,” said Roland Gerhards, Chief
Executive Officer of ZAL GmbH. “We thank the city of Hamburg for its
support in now jointly implementing this location strategy for the
development of future LH2-powered aircraft.”

Michael Eggenschwiler, CEO of Hamburg Airport, said,
“Climate-friendly flying with hydrogen technology is only possible if
the infrastructure on the ground also fits perfectly. Close
coordination is required here, and we as an airport are pleased to be
able to contribute our know-how to this important project – from
questions of storage and distribution to the refueling process on the
apron. At the airport, we also rely on hydrogen as the technology of
the future for our ground transport. This project offers us the
chance to identify and make the best possible use of synergy effects
between gaseous hydrogen, such as that used for refueling our baggage
tractors, and liquid hydrogen for aircraft refueling.”

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