The 2011 Paris Air Show (June 20-25) featured composites in a variety of applications, ranging from engine parts to fuselage structures. CompositesWorld sent a reporter to catch up on the latest.
There was disappointment at the show for those anticipating that Boeing might respond to the re-engined Airbus A320neo by launching a composites-intensive 737 replacement. Boeing explained its strategy of using the rest of this year to make a decision, either to fit more fuel efficient engines to the existing aircraft or launch an all-new aircraft later in 2012. One option Mike Bair (VP Advanced 737 Program) is considering is a small twin-aisled aircraft to meet the needs of rapid embarkation and unloading, to satisfy the needs of low-cost carriers. These planes, however, would not use unducted fans, as there was no way of coping with a blade-off failure, due to their weight and unpredictable trajectories.
At a component level there was a great many new developments on display:
- Composites are making continuing inroads in aero engines. The new Leap engine from CFM was shown with fan blades and case made by resin transfer molding (RTM), with pre-forms supplied by Albany Engineered Composites. On the IHI (Gunma-ken, Japan) stand, a development fan blade was on show.
- Thermoplastic composite structures have made a big step into integrated structures with no mechanical fasteners. Fokker showed a complex wing leading edge with webs butt-joined to the skins. Displayed on the TenCate stand was a rudder with induction-welded ribs and skins, by KVE.
- RTM was highlighted in a one-piece passenger door made by Latecoere (Toulouse, France) from tooling designed and made by Compose (Bellignat, France).
- Out-of-autoclave (OOA) curing was on display by Premium AEROTEC (a fuselage barrel and helicopter frames), Hexcel (an unmanned aerial vehicle fuselage frame) and PPE (a very complex honeycomb sandwich panel).
- Composites continues on its path to becoming the material of choice for omore than half of an aircraft, progressing from structures into engines and undercarriages.