Lufthansa Technik is converting a former German air force Airbus A310 into a test and research aircraft for French national space centre CNES.
The twinjet, which previously served as a VIP transport for the German government, will be used for parabolic flights to simulate zero-gravity conditions. It will be operated by CNES subsidiary Novespace in partnership with the European Space Agency and German aerospace research centre DLR.
LHT is conducting the conversion in combination with a heavy maintenance check at its facility in Hamburg.
At the same site, the maintenance, repair and overhaul provider has been overhauling a modified Boeing 747SP since July. That aircraft is jointly operated by NASA and DLR, and has been equipped with a telescope in the fuselage to serve as stratospheric observatory for infrared astronomy.
Wieland Timm, LHT's executive sales director for VIP and special-mission aircraft, says that while the two aircraft are based on commercial types, the work does not entail routine procedures.
"Very often [special-mission aircraft] are older platforms which you rarely find in commercial aviation, yet equipped with the most modern technical equipment for their specific purposes," he says.
Source: Cirium Dashboard