Four holes were cut in the belly of the Open Skies aircraft

Open Skies Aircraft Conversion

A (w)hole different aircraft

Converting Germany's new "eye in the sky"

20 partner companies, 34 nations, hundreds of different tasks - one integrator: We have converted and delivered the most modern surveillance aircraft for international Open Skies missions. Countries that have signed up to this agreement can observe each other's territories from the air. After 22 years, Germany is once again using its own aircraft for this purpose – and we were the general contractor for its conversion. Even to our highly experienced experts, it became a true "once in a lifetime" project. Delivered on time and on budget.

Open Skies Aircraft Conversion - It's not our work that defines us. It's our people.

Camera integration

To install the comprehensive camera system, our technicians had to cut several holes in the lower fuselage. Two cameras are situated in the rear cargo area to take pictures at altitudes of 1500 and 3500 meters. Moreover, the aircraft features an infrared camera and an optical camera in the cargo hold underneath the work area for use at altitudes of around 6000 meters. To ensure that all cameras have a perfect view through their circular windows facing down, we have installed four-centimeter-thick single-pane glass instead of safety glass. This modification to the aircraft's structure required complex structural and flow calculations. When the cameras are not in use, the windows are covered over.

Open Skies Aircraft Conversion - It's not our work that defines us. It's our people.

Mission control

There are four ergonomic workstations in the front of the cabin for monitoring the flight path and photographs. The workstations, which have USB and GPS ports, were designed and built by our in-house experts. A sophisticated intercom system ensures that the mission crew can communicate with each other and the cockpit over six different channels. To ensure that international inspectors can access all the systems easily at any time, our engineers have planned in maintenance hatches and access points everywhere in the cabin and the furnishings.

Open Skies Aircraft Conversion - It's not our work that defines us. It's our people.

Additional Modifications

At times, the A319 in our hangars in Hamburg looked like a convertible. Among other heavy modifications, our aircraft mechanics had to remove a seven-meter section from the top of the fuselage to install a new antenna. Now that the A319, ID 15+03, finally enters service, Germany will once again have a dedicated mission aircraft – the most technologically advanced one in the world. Before that, the aircraft will be accredited by all Open Skies countries. As it is a multifunctional aircraft, we have moreover fitted the A319 with a delegation area with 25 seats and conversion options for two passenger transport units. These can be used to carry sick and injured passengers.

Facts and Figures

  • 3 use cases: Open Skies, medical and conventional passenger transport
  • 3 civil Supplemental Type Certificates (STC)
  • 4 holes for the camera systems 
  • 150 modifications
  • 26 months of work on the project
  • 5.000 extra rivets
  • 500,000 working hours, 200,000 of them dedicated to the art of engineering

Your personal contact

Wieland Timm, Head of Sales VIP & Special Mission Aircraft

Wieland Timm

Head of Sales VIP & Special Mission Aircraft

Lufthansa Technik AG

Hamburg, Germany