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Boeing has confirmed that it will use lightweight, non-metallic materials to build half of its proposed new 7E7 jetliner, slashing the use of aluminium to cut fuel burn and maintenance costs.
Composites will account for 50 percent of the weight of the proposed 200- to 300-seat jet — about four times the amount on Boeing’s last new jet, the 777 — while aluminium would fall to 15 or 20 percent from 70 percent.
“They (composites) have very little susceptibility to fatigue; they don’t corrode like aluminium corrodes,” said Mike Bair, Boeing’s senior vice president of the 7E7 program
As a result, the 7E7 would take less time and money to maintain than current jets, while the lighter weight would help Boeing cut the aircraft’s fuel burn per passenger by some 20 percent over similar-sized current model jets. Composite use has increased in recent years. But even the Airbus 555-seat A380 mega-jet, due to enter service in 2006, will have only 20 percent composite parts. Larger amounts are planned for future Airbus aircraft.
Boeing also boosted the flight range of the basic 200-seat 7E7 model to 7,800 nautical miles from 6,600 nautical miles, closer to its original plan, citing airline preferences.
Pending management approval late this year or in early 2004, the 7E7 would take wing in 2008, with a second, short-range model with a flight range of about 3,500 nautical miles entering service at about the same time.
Both 7E7 models would hold 200 passengers in three-class seating (first class, business and economy), or 300 passengers in single-class layouts like those favored by low-cost carriers such as Southwest Airlines.
Boeing also is sticking by previously announced plans to build a third, longer “stretch” 7E7 with 250 seats in a three-class configuration and a maximum range of 8,300 nautical miles. That plane will not be ready until at least 2010. Despite the differing components, all three 7E7 variants would be built on the same assembly line.
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