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Made of Sterner

Special Report - And Now for Something Completely Different

Composite material has provided an enormous breakthrough in aircraft production and design. It is not only lighter but also stronger.

 There are production benefits too because composite material has little waste. About 90-95% of composite material is used during production compared with 40-45% of aluminium, a lot of which is machined off to get exact dimensions on parts.

And the technology means that ‘barrels’ of fuselage can be joined together rather than vast amounts of aluminium plates being attached to a frame with thousands of fasteners. Production time and costs are significantly reduced as a result.

Passengers will also notice a difference. A composite structure subtly alters the shape of the fuselage, giving more open space in the cabin. Windows can be larger and relative humidity in the cabin is easier to control, so passengers won’t feel dehydrated after a long flight. Fatigue could be reduced as well, thanks to a lower cabin altitude (about 8,000 feet in equivalent pressure as opposed to 9,000 10,000 in current aircraft), which also has the pleasant side-effect of dampening turbulence.

 

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