Lufthansa Cargo – small cracks, big noise

Boeing and the increasing number of MAX incidents send their regards. If there are technical problems with an aircraft or even minimal safety-relevant issues are spotted, some media switch to alarmism. After all, this increases the number of clicks, and their brand ends up at the top of Google or other search machines. This is also the case here.

Two of the four A321 freighters operated by LH CityLine on behalf of Lufthansa Cargo are currently being repaired due to cracks  –  courtesy LHC

Here is what happened: A tiny crack was discovered on the aft section of one of the freighters in Lufthansa Cargo’s A321P2F four-unit sub-fleet. This occurred during one of the obligatory technical checks, i.e. during a routine inspection.
As a result, the three remaining freighters of this Airbus type which belong to Lufthansa Cargo’s regional fleet, but are operated by the Group’s subsidiary, City Line, were also immediately inspected. The outcome: a similar problem was discovered on a second freighter. Consequently, the aircraft was promptly taken out of service to rule out any risks and enable the damage to be rectified.

Only minor effects on the regional network
So far, so normal. It is currently unclear how long the repairs will take. According to Nicole Mies, Lufthansa Cargo’s Head of Communications, her company expects the first aircraft (D-AEUC) to be repaired within the planned layover time. She did not deliver any time estimate as to how long the fixing and overhauling process of the second aircraft might take.
Both freighters are now being repaired with only a very limited number of flights needing to be cancelled, leaving little impact on Lufthansa Cargo’s regional European network. This is currently even less of an issue since freight volumes are always relatively low at the start of a new year. 
Ms. Mies went on to say that the cracks had resulted from a weight shift affecting the aircraft, since a heavy new cargo door had been installed in the rear section of the fuselage to enable the fast loading and unloading of shipments.
Asked who will foot the bill for the repairs – whether this will be the lessor, Lufthansa Cargo, the converter, or an insurance company – she remained tight-lipped, stating that “Lufthansa Cargo does not provide any information on financial matters.”

One aircraft, many lives
The above-mentioned D-AEUC freighter has had an eventful history. It initially belonged to the Air Berlin fleet and was subsequently passed on to the Austrian subsidiary, Niki, when Air Berlin bit the dust. After that, it was bought by Lufthansa and operated by Lufthansa subsidiary, Eurowings. Finally, it was sold to San Francisco-based lessor, Babcock & Brown Aircraft Management (BBAM), which had it converted into a freighter in Singapore by the local conversion company ST Aerospace and Airbus. Since spring 2022, Lufthansa Cargo has been operating the leased aircraft on scheduled services within its regional network, which also includes North Africa. This also applies to the three other leased A321-P2F freighters.
To conclude: compared to the massive Boeing 737 MAX problems mentioned before, these two routinely discovered cracks should not be a real cause for any alarmism.

AeroLogic: FRA flights have been upped
Asked about the role of freight carrier AeroLogic, a DHL Express/Lufthansa Cargo JV (50/50%), Ms. Mies said that the former work-sharing model had been abolished. Originally, the Deutsche Post subsidiary used AeroLogic’s B777-F exclusively on weekdays for services originating and ending in Leipzig, its largest global hub. On weekends or public holidays, however, Lufthansa Cargo utilized the capacity of the AeroLogic B777F fleet for its own purposes, with flights beginning and ending at its home base, Rhine-Main Airport.
This logical but somehow relatively rigid operational model was already skipped back in 2019, Ms. Mies confirmed, resulting in a shift of some of the freight carrier’s B777F flights from Leipzig to Frankfurt. Yet, this operational adjustment has never been officially communicated to date.

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