The new 757/767 transports will be the first Boeing Commercial aircraft to commit advanced graphite composite material to initial production. Composite materials, mainly fiberglass in an epoxy matrix, have been used in Boeing military and commercial aircraft in ever increasing amounts for the past twenty (plus) years. Recently, the state-of-the-art of Advanced Composites (graphite and graphite/Kevlar hybrids in an epoxy matrix) progressed to the level that it could be committed to full-scale production. This production commitment resulted in a multi-year, multi-million dollar development program. This was to assure technical and production readiness, and product reliability to meet the stringent performance and safety standards of modern commercial transport.
Under this development program, selected advanced composite components (secondary structures, such as elevators, rudders, ailerons and spoilers) were designed, fabricated and tested; these components are committed to the 757 and 767. As these components were being developed, other applications were found for hybrid composites of graphite and Kevlar. When applied to lesser-loaded areas, this material becomes increasingly cost and weight effective.
The 757 and 767 are primarily made of aluminum, but do have significant amounts of composite material in their structure. Composite use on the 757/767 is a significant step toward that time when future transports will be primarily all-composite airplanes. The rapid rise in the cost of fuels will accelerate the introduction of advanced graphite composites as primary structure.