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DAY 26

DAY 26

HAVE A NOSE AROUND OUR MATERIALS LABS

Composite materials deliver maximum aircraft performance

In the 1970s, conflicts and oil embargoes presented aircraft manufacturers with a new challenge.

Within just a decade, the cost of fuel shot up from 25% of direct operating costs to 55%.

Fuel was now the largest contributor to the direct operating costs of flying.

To keep flying economically sustainable, aircraft needed to be more fuel efficient. And to be more fuel efficient, they needed to weigh less.

That’s why Airbus pioneers began to turn away from traditional materials, like aluminium, and find a new solution: composites.

These composites typically weigh 20-25% less than aluminium for an equivalent function.

Take a look at some of the materials helping Airbus achieve these targets…


“Back in 1983 the A310-200 had spoilers, airbrakes and rudders made from carbon fibre. Just three years later, as composite technology advanced, the A310-300 became the first aircraft to use composites on a primary structure with a CFRP fin.”

Chantal Fualdes, Head of Airframe Certification and executive expert in composite airframes.

Hair-like monolithic composite

A350 carbon structure testing

Air inlet of the A320neo

Composite Dry Fibre process

Honeycomb composite structure

‘Woven’ composite fabric

Sandwich composite structure

Engineers like Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) materials because they’re lighter and stronger than traditional metallic ones. Their increasing popularity in aircraft design is due to fatigue and corrosion resistance and extended in-service life, as well as weight and fuel saving properties.

Day 26

Even structures with complex, compound curvatures such as aircraft nose-cones are now able to be made from composites, meaning that weather sensors can now be relocated right at the front of the plane. When nose cones were constructed in aluminium, these had to be housed elsewhere as the metal interfered with the sensors.

But for Airbus, CFRP components are nothing new.

Chantal Fualdes, Head of Airframe Certification and executive expert in composite airframes, explains, “Back in 1983 the A310-200 had spoilers, airbrakes and rudders made from carbon fibre. Just three years later, as composite technology advanced, the A310-300 became the first aircraft to use composites on a primary structure with a CFRP fin. 

“This evolution continues today with the A350 XWB where much of the fuselage and wing covers – more than half of the structure by weight – is made from carbon-fibre composites.”

New European Commission FlightPath 2050 targets require commercial aviation to significantly reduce CO2 and NOx emissions, as well as improving fuel efficiency. Innovations to help achieve these targets will inevitably involve greater use of composite materials to reduce aircraft weight.


What are composites?

A composite material – often shortened to composite – is made from two or more constituent materials with significantly different properties that, when combined, produce a material with characteristics different from the individual components. More and more aircraft components are now made from composites. Today’s A350 XWBs are 53% composite materials by weight, making them 25% more efficient than previous generation aircraft.


There are two main kinds:

Monolithic composites – where layers of fibrous materials are joined with plastic or resin to enhance stiffness and strength. Many people are surprised to know how similar these structures are to human hair! Sandwich-structured composites – where two thin but stiff skins are combined with a lightweight but thick core of lower-strength material to provide the sandwich composite with high stiffness but overall low density.

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FLY THE AVIATION REVOLUTION WITH E-FAN

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SEE A NEW PLANE COME TO LIFE

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