737's With 'plastic' Wings

Wed Aug 02, 2000 4:04 am

A piece of news on the Aero-news site reveals that composite wings are planned to be in production by 2004 or 2005 on the 737.

Many parts of aircraft including tail fins are already using composite materials which are incredibly strong, so how long before a complete composite airliner appears on the scene, and who will be first with it?


RE: 737's With 'plastic' Wings

Wed Aug 02, 2000 4:08 am

For some reason this did not appear on the first post.
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RE: 737's With 'plastic' Wings

Wed Aug 02, 2000 4:29 am

a long time, and american would never fly it unless they changed their livery. Composite material has to be painted and cannot be silver like the rest of AA's fleet..

RE: 737's With 'plastic' Wings

Wed Aug 02, 2000 7:01 am

American would have no problems their livery. Take a look at the A300 it is just painted grey. AA could and probably will just paint the composite grey to match the bare metal color.

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RE: 737's With 'plastic' Wings

Wed Aug 02, 2000 7:57 am

AA is starting to polish their A300s now.

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RE: 737's With 'plastic' Wings

Wed Aug 02, 2000 8:05 am

Actually this does not make any difference. Airlines paint the flying surfaces of the plane anyways. Wings are typically aircraft grey, and tails match the body color. So until planes have fully composite bodies, which might be sometime, then the bare metal schemes will go.
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RE: 737's With 'plastic' Wings

Wed Aug 02, 2000 8:34 am

"Plastic" is hardly the right word, especially if it makes you think about LEGO bricks or Barby dolls. Call it rather "graphite composite" or "carbon fibre" or "CF", then we will know, especially if we have an expensive fishing rod.
Carbon fibre was invented back in 1962 by the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough, England (RAE, the British NASA you might call it) and has since then been widely used in the aircraft industry. In the civil sector Airbus has used it for tail surfaces for 25 years. Beechcraft made a biz turboprop, the Starship, entirely out of CF some 10-15 years back. Porpellers and helicopter rotor blades are mostly made of CF these days. A lot of secondary structures such as landing gear doors, tail cones, wing tips, winglets etc. have been made of CF on just about any airplane for many many years.
Very large structures are still difficult (and therefore expensive) to make. CF structures must be moulded in one operation and cured under high pressure and temperature.
In military aviation CF has been even more widely used. The General Dynamics (now Lockheed) F-16 fighter was probably the first fighter to make extensive use of CF already in the 70'es. The MDD AV-8B Harrier II has flown with CF wings the last 15 years.
Rockets, satellites, space ships, race cars etc. have all made heavy use of CF since it was invented. My model aeroplanes are made entirely of CF except the fuselage tail boom. It contains the radio receiver antenna, so it is made of aramid fibre which unlike CF doesn't shield for the radio signals which control it. The nose cone on any airliner is also made of aramid fibre since it covers the weather radar and needs to be transparent to radio waves.
For 30 years is has been possible to make a 737 size wing out of CF. The only problem is if it is economically feasible.
You can paint CF just like any metal. If in doubt, have a look at any Airbus fin. In fact it MUST be painted. Otherwise its black color, when parked on a hot day in sunshine, would make it so hot that it loses its strength.
Most modern glider airplanes are made of CF (plus glassfibre and aramid fibre), and therefore they are normally painted all white, and never ever painted in dark colors or left unpainted. Often on gliders it is not real paint, but a mixture of paint pigment and a plastic called gel coat which is sprayed and cured in the moulds even before the CF structure is built up in the mould. But that's only a way to make a perfect aerodynamic surface with exactly the same shape as the mould.
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RE: 737's With 'plastic' Wings

Wed Aug 02, 2000 1:39 pm

I must agree. Carbon Fibre is not plastic. I'm not chemical or materials engineer, but if I think back to my materials classes, I seem to remember that plastic is more amorphous like glass (like a very slow viscous liquid) where carbon fibre is much closer to a crystalline matrix making it very ordered, and thus very very strong while at the same time requiring less material (and weight).

Isn't it also true that the planned 3XX will have composite wings? That would be one big-ass composite structure.

Composites are cool and everything because they are much lighter when offering the same strength as metals. However, metals are malleable, and thus much more easily repaired if damaged. If you ding a metal part, you can take a sledge hammer and bang it back into shape. (Slight underexaggeration, but you get the point.) If you damage a CF part, you have to replace the whole thing. That is a very costly workroom mistake to clean up.

RE: 737's With 'plastic' Wings

Wed Aug 02, 2000 3:28 pm

Plastic was only a headline grabber hence the inverted commas.

Anyway, some interesting info has been posted. Is anyone aware that a company headed by Richard Noble of land speed record fame, is currently researching a small turbo prop for biz use using composite construction down at Farnborough.

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