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  • Joe Breitfeller

Lufthansa Airbus A350-900 Becomes Climate Research Aircraft

The Lufthansa Group and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are currently converting a Lufthansa Airbus A350-900 ‘Erfurt’, registration D-AIXJ, into a flying climate research laboratory.

Lufthansa Airbus A350-900 'Erfurt' (Registration D-AIXJ), Becomes Flying Climate Research Aircraft - Courtesy Lufthansa

On Wednesday (April 26, 2023), Lufthansa announced that they have partnered with Karlsruhe Institute of technology (KIT) to convert their Airbus A350-900 ‘Erfurt’, registration D-AIXJ, into a flying climate research laboratory. Experts from the Lufthansa Group have attached a measuring probe system to the lower fuselage of the A350, and successfully tested it in flight. In the airspace over Southern Germany, Lufthansa pilots completed a flight program in coordination with certification authorities. In addition to the air inlet function, the measuring system has sensors for high-frequency and for the precision measurement of pressure and temperature. Starting in 2024, Airbus will collect comprehensive climate data during regular passenger flights for the European research infrastructure IAGOS-CARIBIC.

In Wednesday’s announcement, Lufthansa Airlines’ CEO, Jens Ritter, said,

“We want to make flying more sustainable. That is why we have been supporting climate research for decades. The conversion of our Lufthansa Airbus A350 into a climate research aircraft is a globally unique project in which colleagues from a wide variety of areas at Lufthansa have been working together with partners in science for years. Our aim is to make a valuable contribution to climate research. The data that our aircraft will collect worldwide in the future will help to improve today's atmospheric and climate models and thus their informative value for the future climate on earth.”

Also commenting on the research collaboration, Dr. Andreas Zahn of KIT and Coordinator of IAGOS-CARIBIC added,

“IAGOS-CARIBC helps to close an essential gap in our understanding of the climate system. With the high-precision measurements of many parameters, we can understand which atmospheric processes are changing and how in climate change, in an altitude region where most of the atmospheric radiation budget, i.e., the greenhouse effect, is generated and changed. We can thus identify process-specific errors and their causes in climate models and subsequently improve their predictive capabilities. We are extremely grateful for Lufthansa's great commitment and support.”

Lufthansa's Aribus A350-900 'Erfurt' is Turned Into a Flying Climate Research Laboratory - Courtesy Lufthansa

In the coming months, a measurement laboratory weighing around two tons will be set up. Around 20 measuring instruments will be installed in the laboratory, which will then be loaded into the cargo hold as a cargo container and connected to the measuring system on the outer fuselage of the testbed aircraft. The new high-tech laboratory will takeoff next year, and will be able to continuously record over 100 trace gases, aerosol, and cloud parameters from the ground to the tropopause.

The conversion of the Airbus A350 ‘Erfurt’ was preceded by several years of planning and development. In addition to the Lufthansa Group and KIT, other partners include Lufthansa Technik, Airbus, Safran, enviscope, Dynatec and ACC COLUMBIA Jet Service. The Lufthansa Group has been dedicated to climate and weather research for nearly 30 years, and has equipped several different aircraft with measuring instruments. From December 2004 to 2020, a Lufthansa Airbus A340-600, registration D-AIHE, completed approximately 500 measurement flights as part of the CARIBIC project.

Source: Lufthansa

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