DA42 Twin Star, the twin-engine, four-seat aircraft from Diamond Air Technologies, is made entirely of plastic (Photo: Diamond Air Technologies)
Vorlesen Fiber-reinforced plastics are gradually replacing the aluminum in aircraft. Small machines can already be manufactured completely without metal and from a single mold. Large passenger machines contain plastic in the outer skin. For new models, both Airbus and Boeing announce that they will significantly increase their plastic content. A large part of the scaffolding of the fuselage and wings will in future be made of fiber-reinforced plastic at Boeing. At Airbus, there are 20 percent in the next aircraft, in the medium term, up to 40 percent. At first glance, nothing has changed. The dimensions of an aircraft of the Aerospaciale from the 50s are almost exactly the same as the Airbus of the 1990s. But instead of around 90 passengers, today there are just under 150 people. This is made possible, among other things, by a large part of the plastic inside as well as in the outer skin of the aircraft. This saves weight, which is then available for luggage and passengers.

Only a few years ago, Plastik was an outsider in the mantle of planes. Today, however, large and small aircraft manufacturers rely on the new material. "Not two and a half, but five to ten tons of plastic will be used in the next Airbus aircraft, " corrected Peter Radden of the plastic manufacturer Ticona in Kelsterbach the previous plans. 500 to 850 passengers should be able to be transported in the new machine.

Boeing also announces plans to manufacture the basic structure of the wings and fuselage of the next aircraft, mainly from plastic. In 2008, this machine should be ready to go.

Already today, the Austrian company Diamond Air Technologies in Wiener Neustadt is building small flying machines exclusively without metal in the outer shell. "All our aircraft are made of 100% plastic in combination with glass or carbon fibers, " reports the technical managing director, Christian Trieb. The fibers give the plastic the necessary strength. display

For May, Diamond Air Technologies expects to receive the certificate for a new four-seater from the plastic fiber mix. The maiden flight for test purposes, the aircraft has already behind. The model weighs about a ton less than some cars.

However, not only the weight of the small machines determines the choice of material. Trieb cites further advantages: "We can build the aircraft from a single casting and thus give them any shape. This gives us a completely smooth surface. That reduces fuel consumption ".

However, the plastics can not replace the aluminum in large passenger aircraft at one go. There, the change is taking place step by step. A few years ago, the plastic era of the large aircraft began rather by accident: the rudder of a DASA aircraft was too small and was to be subsequently enlarged. Out of necessity came the premiere of the new material. Plastic in conjunction with glass or carbon fibers for the first time formed the ridge nose ribs on a large passenger plane.

Meanwhile, various plastic composite materials for aircraft are offered. Such a material is also produced by Ticona. The company's plastic compound is one-fifth lighter than aluminum and stronger and stronger. Thus, the plastic mix is ​​not attacked by ice in the air while metal is rusting. And where aluminum gets dents when it collides with a bird, the fiber-reinforced plastic remains healthy.

The properties speak for the plastic fiber mix. "But the necessary tests are tedious, because the security proceeds, " Peter Radden told ddp. Nevertheless, huge components made of fiber-reinforced plastic for aircraft construction are already being delivered today and welded together on site. In conventional aluminum plates, however, the parts must be riveted consuming.

Boeing announces that it intends to have large components from Europe delivered for the new aircraft type and to design a special aircraft shuttle for this purpose. One of the companies the aircraft manufacturer is in contact with is Ticona.

In the upcoming Airbus model, 20 percent composite material is to be processed by Ticona. The saved weight equals that of 150 passengers with luggage. "But that is still expandable. Our goal is 40 percent, "announces Peter Radden of Ticona. However, supporting parts such as the wings of large aircraft could not be built entirely from plastic mixtures for the foreseeable future.

Susanne Donner

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