Having arrived in Hamburg as a former German government aircraft, this very special Airbus A310 has now left Hamburg again in a completely new role. Lufthansa Technik AG has delivered the new Zero-G aircraft to its French owner Novespace following extensive modifications. The former 10+21 “Konrad Adenauer” bearing the registration F-WNOV will operate in the future as a parabolic aircraft in the name of space exploration and technology – in true reflection of the spirit of Franco/German friendship.
Some 1,300 modifications were required in the framework of the conversion program in order to convert the aircraft back to its original factory default state as required by the European aviation authority EASA. The cabin refit then commenced, with the approx. 20 meter long “test area” proving particularly challenging.
This is the area where prospective astronauts will be able in the future to experience weightlessness for the first time, for example, or where scientific investigations will take place. Extra powerful light installations were required in particular for this purpose, with care being taken to ensure that these would not pose a hazard for the “weightless” passengers. Novespace will use the aircraft from its home airport in Bordeaux from May.
According to Christophe Mora, Technical and Operation Director at Novespace: “We chose Lufthansa Technik because they know this aircraft very well, they modified this aircraft a long time ago and have maintained it ever since. They also offered us a good modification and C-check package and today we can see that they have been doing very good work.”
The German Aerospace Center uses the converted Airbus A310 for zero-gravity research. Dr. Ulrike Friedrich, head of parabolic flight projects: “We are very pleased that the new parabolic aircraft is well maintained thanks to the professional collaboration between Novespace and Lufthansa Technik and is now ready for scientific flights, having been fitted with all the necessary conversions. Many researchers are already waiting impatiently to carry out their biological, physical and medical experiments with zero gravity.” The German, French and European Space Agencies are looking forward to their first joint flight campaigns in May.”
One thing is for sure according to Joerg Paisen, Project Manager with responsibility for modifying the new parabolic aircraft at Lufthansa Technik: “The EASA requirements were a real challenge when it came to demonstrating the structural integrity of this aircraft. It is solely down to the good interaction between the customer, engineering planning and the technicians from the different divisions that the project was implemented successfully.” The principle of concurrent engineering was followed, with engineering activities, work planning and manual execution running largely in parallel. A team of 50 technicians was involved directly with the aircraft in Lufthansa Technik’s Hangar 5 in Hamburg.
The new Zero-G aircraft from Novespace was already the third so-called “Special Mission Aircraft” in a row for Lufthansa Technik. Before this, the SOFIA airborne observatory, a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), had been in Hamburg for several months for a major overhaul. And Lufthansa Technik also converted a Lufthansa Airbus A340-300 on behalf of the Federal German Government to an evacuation aircraft for highly contagious Ebola patients in the shortest possible time.
Source: Lufthansa Technik.