SUSTAINablility increase of lightweight,
multifunctional and intelligent airframe and engine parts


Circular aviation is responding to the societal demand for sustainable aviation. Solutions connected to propulsion are one side of the proverbial coin. The other side encompasses circular economy approaches tackling resource consumption and emissions along the entire value chain, including production of aircraft, maintenance and end-of-life solutions. SUSTAINair researches and develops solutions to increase resource efficiency and aircraft performance while reducing waste and material costs throughout the aircraft life cycle, what is known as circular aviation. The project provides the aviation sector with a runway to a more cost-effective, low-carbon economy.


H2020 | RIA


€ 4,998,747.50

Start date

1 January 2021


42 months

Project details

The challenge

The aerospace demand for high-quality material is typically accompanied by large amounts of waste during the manufacturing process. This applies to both metal alloys and composites. Over 170,000 metric tons of materials are today parked waiting to land in landfills or being downgraded to lower-grade material used in soda-cans. Manufacturing of CFRP components typically shows 40% of expensive and well-traced waste material is thrown in the bin, associated with discarding costs of typically 500 EUR/ton. Additionally, the current end-of-life processes do not secure high value of the material, not allow for re-use in the aerospace sector. Aircraft consist of many parts from various materials that need to be joined. Currently the joining is done by using rivets, which are difficult to remove. This makes the separation, and thus efficient recycling, of aircraft components challenging and costly to the point of being not economically viable. Additionally, adhesive joining still lacks sufficient reliability and the possibilities to test joints non-destructively in many cases. This hinders its use for safety critical structural aerospace applications, leading to extensive use of additional rivets. Maintenance, repair, and overhaul operations preventing aircrafts from flying are inevitable due to expected, scheduled checks and maintenance as well as unexpected damage. Such Aircraft On ground (AOG) times when an aircraft is not flying result in approximately 1 million EUR per day. Condition monitoring of multifunctional and intelligent airframe and engine parts but also for example of wind turbines, rail systems and generally large machines and plants, are almost completely absent on the market.

The solution

The central approach of SUSTAINair is to substantially increase the sustainability of the airframe value chain achieving a paradigm shift in aircraft manufacturing. SUSTAINair applies circular economy principles to the design, manufacturing, operations and end-of-life phases of aircraft.

This includes:
● Circular design of individual components and joining technologies for airframe construction
● Real-time structural health monitoring of materials and joints during operations
● Improved maintenance and repair technologies to extend aircraft life-time
● Automated dismantling robotics for improved recovery of high-quality recycling materials

The main impacts

In total, the SUSTAINair project aims to achieve 100 % recyclability of current aviation thermoset & thermoplast FRPs, and 100% utilization of parts due to condition-based maintenance.

The SUSTAINair project aims to reduce costs:
● in fuel consumption, due to multi-material approach
● in thermoplastic parts due to upcycling techniques
● for repair and maintenance due to zero-waste assembly
● decrease the buy-to-fly ratio for aluminium close to 1
● 50% decrease in titanium powder degradation
● 8% take-off gross weight Moreover, the project aim is:
● 50% increase in shear and fatigue joint strength
● 3-factor increase in the value of end-of-life materials


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101006952.