Plastic X-Plane

Back in 2006, Spectrum predicted a win for the advanced carbon composite wing on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Lockheed Martin is going further: A program at Lockheedâ''s Skunk Works aims to replace the mid/aft fuselage and tail assembly of a Dornier 328J aircraft with advanced composites.

ACCAFD_Dornier_Flight_C.jpg

Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin Advanced Development Programs

The Lockheed team at Palmdale, CA, were given the green light yesterday by the Air Force Research Laboratory to start putting together the new X-Plane, called the Advanced Composite Cargo Aircraft (ACCA) Flight Demonstration.

Advanced composites are plastic-like materials that usually mix resins with high-strength fibers of carbon, boron, graphite, or glass. They tend to be stronger, lighter, and more resistant to fatigue and corrosion than the aluminum alloys widely used in planes today.

According to the Lockheed press release, the plastic X-Planeâ''s advanced composites â''will enable a reduction of 80-90 percent in parts count and a dramatic reduction in corrosion and fatigue issues compared to conventional aircraft manufacturing approaches.â''

The press release also mentions applications for long range strike, unmanned systems and future air mobility transports.

And in fact, Danger Room reports that the Air Force is hoping to use the research to build â''a new class of short-takeoff-and-landing transports circa 2020 that is significantly lighter and costs much less to produce than current air mobility platforms of the same size.â''

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