Applications First Airbus made of more than 50% plastic composites set for maiden flight

Editor: Eric Culp

The aircraft is also said to contain carbon fibre parts of historical proportions.

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The lower wing covers on the A350 XWB are reportedly the biggest single civil aviation parts ever made from carbon fibre.
The lower wing covers on the A350 XWB are reportedly the biggest single civil aviation parts ever made from carbon fibre.
(Source: Hexcel)

The first flight of the Airbus A350 XWB is expected to take place sometime this summer, and carbon fibre and prepeg supplier Hexcel said the aircraft is the first Airbus to have over half its weight comprise composite materials.

When Hexcel was awarded the contract to supply carbon fibre prepreg for all the A350 XWB composite primary structures in 2008, it was the largest contract in the company’s history, expected to generate sales of up to $5 billion, the company said, adding that tis total parts content on each A350 XWB is now over $4 million.

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Hexcel said it secured the A350 XWB contract by developing a complete composite proposal including carbon fibre prepregs and associated products. Its experience in Intermediate Modulus carbon fibres was used to design the materials to Airbus requirements, and its prepreg resin matrix is said to ensure that the performance properties of the fibre are fully optimised in the cured prepreg laminates.

The A350 XWB composite structures built by Airbus and the Tier 1 companies using Hexcel materials include entire fuselage panels, the keel beam, the entire wing (covers, spars and centre wing-box) and empennage. The supplier said the A350 XWB lower wing covers are the biggest single civil aviation parts ever made from carbon fibre at 32 metres long by 6 metres wide.

To meet increasing demand, Hexcel said it has added production lines at its facility in Decatur, Alabama; carbon fibre lines have been commissioned in Salt Lake City, Utah; and it built its first European carbon fibre production plant in Illescas, Spain.

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