A new competence center for radomes: Lufthansa Technik's Original Equipment Innovation (OEI) division is teaming up with the company's in-house experts for composite structures to develop and manufacture radomes of any type and size.
If we can repair radomes comprehensively, thenwe can also design and manufacture them." That is what the responsible managers for Lufthansa Technik's exclusive tail-mounted radomes (Three-In-One-Solution, TIOS+) and the experts for fiber-reinforced materials thought – and what led to setting up a new department that will deal purely with the development and production of advanced radomes. The new competence center for radomes combines the MRO provider's in-depth know-how of composite structures with its proven experience with certified radomes. The aim is to be the partner of choice for the realization of radomes and radome related parts of any type for all state-of-the-art and future aircraft connectivity systems.
Connectivity is an increasingly important factor in the on-board customer experience. "There is no IFE without adding the ‘C' for connectivity anymore," states Dennis Hunold, Manager Product Planning & Development at Lufthansa Technik's Original Equipment Innovation division. "To realize high speed endtoend connectivity solutions for all aircraft platforms, radomes – that is, antenna housings – are a critical element in the installations." Built from fiber-reinforced composites, these housings protect the sensitive antenna systems against environmental influences, bearing high aerodynamic loads and offering maximum permeability for the required radio frequencies.
Structural aircraft components made of composite materials, such as radomes, are repaired by Lufthansa Technik's ARC® (Airframe Related Components) department. It has comprehensive expertise in composite structures and fulfills all necessary technical, qualification and certification requirements. "We really do have everything you need to manufacture radomes," says Henrik Schmutzler, Program Manager for composite manufacturing at Airframe Related Components. "On the one hand, we can fall back on our wealth of experience from MRO, our skilled staff and our existing infrastructure like tools, cold storage and an autoclave. On the other hand, we already have built up the engineering knowledge required for production."
When it comes to the new competence center, Original Equipment Innovation contributes not just its experience with radomes but also its knowledge of individual customer needs, especially in the area of VIP aircraft and business jets. The first TIOS radome with its professional, patented material lay-up, which ensures optimum permeability for satellite connectivity systems, was introduced 20 years ago. Recently, the now well established TIOS radome underwent significant further development: TIOS+ (Three-In-One Solution) is a tri-band (L-band, Ku-band and Ka-band) system for antennas to be mounted on the vertical tail of Boeing 737 VIP aircraft, including the newest 737 MAX family by the end of 2018.
The TIOS+ radome is now built in the ARC® workshops at Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg and has been completely redesigned to ensure that it is also permeable for the latest Ka-band frequency range. This product development and the establishment of the in-house manufacturing set-up only took six months. Following this successful evolution, the capacities have been expanded and the building of radomes and radome-related parts for the OEM market has begun. In this way, for one customer program a batch of close-out skirts has been produced to connect the radome to the aircraft fuselage.
From MRO to OEM
"Demand for connectivity solutions is high," Dennis Hunold is certain. "In the past, everything revolved around connectivity in the cockpit, but nowadays passengers, too, increasingly expect communication options on board – and no longer just on VIP aircraft and business jets, but also and especially in commercial aviation." Preparations for the production of radomes are therefore currently in full swing: A dedicated production area is being constructed and employees chosen for the new team. Based on the experience of the repair operation, a manufacturing operation is being established, which, flanked by Lufthansa Technik's triple competence as a design, production and maintenance organization, is intended to tap a new market for the company.
"We are ready to develop and manufacture radomes of any type and size for both tail-mount and fuselage-mount connectivity systems," says Henrik Schmutzler. And Dennis Hunold adds: "We're capable of handling all current technologies. But we're also well-prepared for new developments in the antenna market – and will thus be able to manufacture suitable radomes for our customers on the basis of these developments.
Copyright by Lufthansa Technik Connection Magazine