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Plastic planes 'set to rule sky'

BBC News | July 17, 2006

Britons travelling abroad 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, said president Alan Mulally.

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.

Millions of tourists fly in 737 planes each year. The Farnborough Air Show begins on Monday.

Composites 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.

What's absolutely key is getting our technology to a position where it's right to do this
Alan Mulally
And he said the materials would be used when the company decided to update its popular 737 planes.

Mr Mulally said composites would be used to build up to half of each aircraft and would cut building and maintenance costs.

He predicted that the technology needed to build the new 737 planes would not be ready until the middle of the next decade.

"What's absolutely key is getting our technology to a position where it's right to do this," said Mr Mulally.

Mr Mulally predicted 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.

Lighter composite materials are also thought to improve range and fuel efficiency.


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