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Aerodynamic optimisation: Air Berlin’s commendable Effort

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Image Courtesy: Air Berlin

What makes an airline like Air Berlin stand out from the crowd? Innovation.

Air Berlin, based at Berlin, Germany, has always been a the forefront of implementing technology that has a business case. In May 2001 Air Berlin was the world’s first airline to take delivery of a Boeing 737-800 retrofitted with the Aviation Partners Incorporated (API) blended, fuel-saving winglets. Early 2013, Air Berlin received one of the first Airbus A320 equipped with fuel-saving sharklets at the Airbus factory in Hamburg. This airline, the second largest in Germany, will become one of the world’s first airlines to install an Electric Taxi system from WheelTug upon the latter’s certification, resulting in savings of over 80% fuel savings on ground. The largest shareholder in this tech-savvy company is Ethiad.

On 8th October, 2013, Air Berlin joined the ranks of none other, proclaiming itself to be the first airline to develop new software for aerodynamic optimisation. The tool is aimed at optimising airflow, with apparently no such software having hit the market, before.

Small blemishes, rough paintwork or even a one millimetre gap between the landing gear doors: any small irregularity on the surface of the aircraft affects its aerodynamics and leads to greater air resistance, which in turn means higher fuel consumption. This tool guides aircraft technicians through a standardised procedure, inspecting the entire surface of the aircraft and helping them measure and classify any imperfections. The software also calculates how much additional fuel consumption will result from that increased air resistance. It then generates a list of priorities for the maintenance schedule of each individual aircraft, so the areas concerned can be made good during subsequent maintenance.

According to Air Berlin, the additional fuel consumed in the course of a year due to the loss of paint from an area of 150 by 50 centimetres is sufficient for two 250NM flights from Berlin to Dusseldorf. The additional fuel consumed in the course of a year due to a slightly projecting seal on the movable doors for landing gear is sufficient for a 150NM flight from Nuremberg to Dresden. This tool will allow Airberlin to save that fuel in future.

Airberlin has used the new software to measure the surface irregularities on 15 of its 91 strong aircraft fleet. This inspection will gradually be extended to the entire fleet and will then be repeated periodically.

“In 2012 we set a record of just 3.4 litres of fuel per 100 passenger kilometres flown. But we are still not satisfied and we are constantly working on further potential ways of saving fuel. This new tool is another step towards our goal, which is the three-litre mark", says Felix Genze, airberlin’s Vice President Performance Improvement.

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