|Quoting Ruscoe (Reply 223):|
However, you may be able to shine some light on this for me. I saw in a recent publication (I think FI) that the A400 will have an Al-Li fuselage. Is this a simple confusion with the 350 or have Airbus actully changed their minds and now going for Al-Li for the A400.
The A400M is not a 100% composite airliner, but for Airbus it is an evolutionary step in that direction. It utilizes more composites - mostly carbon fiber re-enforced plastics - than any Airbus model to date. 40% of the structural weight is composite, similar to the planned A350. Primary support structures, such as the skin, stringers, and frames, are made from Al-Li alloy, and is reinforced by composite material structures. Titanium alloys are used in highly loaded areas such as around the windscreen, the wing-to-fuselage attachment, and around the landing gear.
The wings of the A400M are almost completely made of composites, excepting the wing ribs then the ailerons, spoilers, spars and wing box are all composite. The propeller blades are made from composites as is the empennage.
Airbus isn't prepared to make a composite pressurised fuselage at the moment. They are going to let Boeing go first into that particular deep-end, so to speak, that much seems apparent.
I would hazard a guess no sooner than 2015, not until the B787 and A350 have been flying for a few years and experience with airliners made from large amount of composites (40%+) is established, especially the reliability and economy of the pressurized B787 fuselage. This isn't a race, and I think things are much more interesting this way.
Airbus are moving towards using composites more than ever, but not as fast as Boeing in the B787. Boeing jumps from about 10% composite usage in the B777 to 50%+ usage in the B787, while Airbus has been moving from the A300 with 5% composites, through the A330/A340 (10%), the A345/346 (20%), the A380 (28%) to the A350 (40%). Airbus is more conservative and take changes in small steps, it would seem to me.