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About all composite civil aircraft



‘As engineers at Airbus and Boeing now know, demonstrating that composites are lighter and stronger is not the same as demonstrating that lighter civil aircraft can be built with composites’.






Hans van der Zanden
June 2009



An impossible dream

About composite aircraft


Draft published on for comment June 2009


Copyright © 2009 Hans van der Zanden, Dunkilla, Kerry, Ireland.


The author has asserted his moral right.

This report contains information obtained from authentic sources and highly regarded sources. Reprinted material involves ‘quotes’ publicly made and sources can be readily indicated. Reasonable efforts have been made to publish reliable data and information, but the author cannot assume responsibility for the validity of all materials. As is generally recognized there are many scientific unknowns in the field. The author nor anyone else associated with this publication, shall be liable for any loss, damage or liability directly or indirectly caused or alleged to be caused by this report. Neither this report nor any part may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronics or mechanical, including photocopying, microfilming and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author – this with the exception of ‘quotes’ as such indicated.

Special permission must be obtained for copying, for distribution, for creating new works, or for resale, in part or as a whole, in writing from the author – with exception of the quotes also used in the fictional interlines and as such ‘marked’.





Dedicated to the crew of the Columbia


Rick D. Husband, Commander

William C. McCool, Pilot

Michael P. Anderson, Payload Commander

David M. Brown, Mission Specialist 1

Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist 2

Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Mission Specialist 4

Ilan Ramon, Payload Specialist 1





What’s in a word


1. Aiming for complete control of the market
About an entertaining relationship

2. Lessons from history
About ignorance

3. Front runner
About Dreamliner 787

4. In comfortable second position
About A350

5. Pro and Con and so on
About composites

6. Not suitable
About damage tolerance

7. All things considered
About aluminium reinforced composites

All composite anatomy


Appendix – Comet accident

Appendix – Concorde accident

Appendix – Columbia accident



What’s in a word

With the introduction of advanced materials in aviation new words and expressions enter the vocabulary of engineers and others involved. To make the text assessable to the layman formulas and abbreviations have been avoided, technical jargon has been limited and the following expressions are used, may be not completely in line with practice in the fields concerned.


Aluminum aircraft

some 75% or more out of aluminium by weight;

All-composite aircraft

some 50% out of composites by weight or about 80% by volume, probably the maximum that can de attained;

Composed aircraft

roughly about one third out of composites, one third out of other advanced materials and one third out of traditional materials;

Plain composites

Plastics that contains fibres in a resin matrix

Aluminum reinforced composites

fibre metal laminates – FML – describing composites that are reinforced with thin layers of aluminium sandwiched between the layers of the composite, reinforcing the composite in a way essentially similar to reinforced concrete.

Contents (PDF – 65 kB)