A plastic future
TRAVELLERS are likely to be flying in plastic planes in the future, says the chief of Boeing.
All 737 planes would be made from non-metal materials, or composites, president Alan Mulally told the BBC.
Ahead of the Farnborough Air Show, the US plane giant boss said “all future planes will be made out of composites”, because it does not corrode.
Composite are formed when two or more materials with differing properties are combined. Such materials are already used in items such as tennis rackets and bicycle spokes.
The US company’s new 787 Dreamliner – which is expected to make its first flight next year – is already being constructed using carbon fibre-reinforced plastic composites. Mulally said the materials would be used when the company decided to update its popular 737 planes. Millions of tourists fly in 737 planes each year.
Mulally, quoted by the BBC, said composites would be used to build up to half of each aircraft and would cut building and maintenance costs. Lighter composite materials are also thought to improve range and fuel efficiency.
He predicted that the technology needed to build the new 737 planes would not be ready until the middle of the next decade.
He said that airlines had now recovered sufficiently from the downturn in the wake of the 11 September attacks to begin adding new planes to their fleets.
Mulally also admitted the some areas of its fast-selling 787 Dreamliner are behind schedule, but that should not push back the new lightweight mid-sized plane’s entry into service scheduled for 2008.
“Some areas are ahead of schedule, some areas are behind where we want to be. That’s the nature of making new airplanes,” he said.
He said the new plane, to be built mostly from carbon fiber and titanium to save weight and cut fuel costs, was still over its target weight, but declined to say by how much.