HOTR: Hexcel gives glimpse at 2030 airplane

By the Leeham News Team

July 28, 2022, © Leeham News: Hexcel, a major supplier of composites to Airbus and Boeing, gave a hint of things to come when the next generation narrowbody airplane is developed for late this decade or early next decade.

In its 2Q2022 earnings call, Hexcel forecast that the next-gen airplane may be comprised of more than 60% of composites and thermoplastics. (Figure 1.) This compares with about 50% for the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787. It compares with about 5% of the narrow- and widebody airplanes of the 1970s and 1980s.

Upping composite content in single-aisle airplanes and achieving economic operating gains is more difficult than the gains for widebody aircraft. The weight savings and stage lengths simply don’t match the benefits achieved on widebodies.

Nevertheless, Hexcel’s presentation presents an intriguing look into the future.


RTX Ventures, an affiliate of Raytheon Technologies, invested $12m into VerdeGo Aero, a firm developing hybrid-electric technology for aerospace.

The investment enables VerdeGo and Raytheon’s subsidiary, Pratt & Whitney, to collaborate.

Air India widebody order

Airbus was in line to receive a big order from Air India for the A350, with hopes it would be done in time for the Farnborough Air Show. Airbus and the airline couldn’t come to terms. Boeing may have another shot at this one.

737 MAX inventory

Boeing had 290 737 MAXes in inventory at the end of the second quarter. About 140 of these are built for China’s airlines and lessors.


41 Comments on “HOTR: Hexcel gives glimpse at 2030 airplane

  1. “The weight savings and stage lengths simply don’t match the benefits achieved on widebodies.”

    The advantages of composites for narrow bodies is in the integration of structural components and the reduction in part count. Reducing part count reduces both the high costs of engineering, procurement, and quality control, but also the labor touch time in assembly.

    • The advantage of additive manufacturing in general.
      .. not necessarily limited to (plastic) composites.

      • No one does additive manufacturing with carbon fibre composites.

        The composite is likely to be the one everyone has forgotten , metal fibre laminates ( usually Al is the metal). It had a good use in the A380 upper deck fuselage panels ( as glass reinforced FML) but not much since. The manufacturers have been disappointed that the materials for the aviation grade carbon fibre composites havent reduced much in price as the volumes ramped up. Although carbon composite could still be used in some areas like upper wing skin while MFL for the lower skin. The higher fatigue spectrum of the shorter haul flights is best met by FML
        ‘Comparing the manufacturing process of FMLs with current composites, FML manufacture employs aluminum molds where today’s large, typically carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) structures often require costly Invar tooling. Further, FML cure temperatures are much lower than those required for CFRP. This, in combination with the lower raw material cost and greater automation, can bring FML applications for primary structures into the cost range of aluminum, which is at least half that of a composite design. ‘

        Costs down, weights down, just needs the automated manufacturing techniques to bring it into production at a standard for aviation

        • “No one does additive manufacturing with carbon fibre composites.”

          baking fibers together with resins is “additive manufacturing”. ( includes injection molding, thermoplastic forming, … )

          vs the subtractive process of whittling down (metal) stock to the shape of a design object ( up to 98% are transformed into scraps in the process )

          GLARE is a bit of an in between as the composite element is producing “stock” which is then worked subtractively into the final shape.

          ( Just seen adverts for fiber reinforced 3D print items: SCNR )

          • “Additive manufacturing (AM) is defined by the ASTM society as “a process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies”

            No cigar ! Composite manufacturing is its own category. No one would consider say a fibre glass boat build as additive manufacturing even though its done with layers and resins

          • “Additive manufacturing is the process of creating an object by building it one layer at a time. It is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing, in which an object is created by cutting away at a solid block of material until the final product is complete.

            “Technically, additive manufacturing can refer to any process where a product is created by building something up, such as molding, but it typically refers to 3-D printing.”


          • My source is an authoritive industry body.
            Not a single academic ( but when you read it in depth still follows ASTM definition and doesnt mention the resin composites at all)
            American Society for Testing and Materials whos definitions are widespread

            no cigar, especially as you hadnt read it nor understood

          • Your “source” is a *quote* from an obscure book published in 2021 by Woodhead Publishing Reviews.

            You think MIT isn’t an “authorative industry body”?

        • Dukeofurl said, on July 28, 2022:

          “No one does additive manufacturing with carbon fibre composites.”

          You just introduced two words there, to dismiss a claim no one had made..
          Do you see those two words, Duke?

        • {this and your follow ups}

          you have to brown kiss everything, do you?

          I reference the basic process of creation.

          You reference the bullshit bingo PR tags of today.

          • What plastic composites are being done by additive methods, as defined by ASTM?

          • Common carbon composites are being “done by additive methods” as defined by MIT.

  2. Around show airlines often can get additional discounts or other conditions if they sign at the show. It seems Airbus wasn’t in the moot this Farnborough. Looking at their supply chain challenges, backlog and competitive situation this seems to have had little priority this time.

    Maybe Air India wanted Airbus to buy some aircraft as part of an A350 deal..

    • Or maybe BA came in and offered 787s at close-to-cost pricing?
      Not good for the balance sheet, but when did BA ever care about that?

      • Choose one Bryce. I thought all Boeing cared about was money money and finances and bottom lines. Now all of a sudden they don’t care about balance sheet. You’re just shaken in your boots by the prospect of Boeing stealing a widebody order from airbus. But that’s what happens when you spend all your time trying to shade Boeing (which is fair enough given their recent history but it gets very boring tbh)

        Relax, airbus will get their 350 order from AI. It’s not anything they can’t reach an agreement on. Not that I know anything but airbus is not going to give up on this order when nobody can sell widebodies

        • “I thought all Boeing cared about was money money and finances and bottom lines. Now all of a sudden they don’t care about balance sheet.”

          BA likes to earn money — and then get rid of it again for short-term gain.
          Maintaining a healthy balance sheet seems to be low on the priority list.
          You had noticed that, surely?

          I couldn’t care less what Air India orders: they already have 787s, so why not stick with them?
          But, it’s always interesting when one manufacturer manages to squeeze the other on pricing — as with the KC-46A, for example.

  3. Composites with out of autoclave composites and thermoplastics structures can radically change the cost and speed of producing aircraft structures. Getting baked parts to correct form tolerances can be a challenge (Boeing 787…). But it will come as deigns, analysis tools and robots evolve. This together with one pilot cockpits for commercial jets will change the economics and free money to buy SAF fuel. Can heavy checks be moved to the right due less corrosion thanks to composites and engines staying on-wing for 30 000 cycles makes for airlines just running the aircraft for years until they are sold for cargo conversion and replaced with new ones.

    • Although the USAF recently proposed one-pilot missions for Pacific KC-46As — and caused a lot of frowns in the process — I really can’t envision that commercial aviation will be seeing one-pilot cockpits any time soon.

      “Shrinking the number of airmen onboard a tanker could help minimize potential troop casualties while still getting combat jets the fuel they need.” (!!)

      • MIL Tanker Single pilot ops have a go/nogo condition of the single pilot being incapacitated.

        This endangers many more airmen than that saved crew member.

        I see “single pilot” in the freighter domain as a door opener!?

        apropos: Airbus has demonstrated automatic fuel transfer linkups. What about un-crewed tankers?

        • The number of crew in cockpits on big aircrafts has been dropping since the war and FBW, computers together with SATCOMM will push it down further. It might be safer in the future without pilots for different missions that are highly standardized. For tankers that are derivatives of commercial jets it is highly desirable as they are visible from space and soon its 4D position can be downlinked to SAM’s to knock them out leaving Hawaii with missile launched from Shenyang.

          • “The number of crew in cockpits on big aircrafts has been dropping since the war”

            Yes, that’s true.
            But, as soon as you get down to just one, you have no human backup whatsoever. We can debate on whether or not that’s a good thing, but — at the very least — it’s worth noting that it’s a critical juncture that needs to be thought about carefully.

          • I think one man in cockpit, two on board is what is being considered. During start, landing and other higher workload flight phases it’s two in the cockpit.

            I think this is more about during cruise, can the second crew member take a rest, if he’s close (e.g. 10 secs) to the cockpit, if there’s addition surveillance, automation, redundant communication, additional pre-flight checks, seniority available. Iso of a third pilot.

          • I think you’ll find single pilot operations generally in this context means two pilots on board though only one may be in the cockpit while the other is taking a scheduled rest break. This is opposed to three pilots on board and two in the cockpit at all times apart from toilet breaks. Even JetBlue A321LR flying between New York and London have to carry 3 pilots.
            “One Pilot” makes a good headline.

        • …but there aren’t a few hundred passengers sitting behind the cockpit, are there?

          Humans are a very particular type of cargo.

        • Efficiency and systems resilience work at cross purposes- as we’re seeing around the world, now.

          JIT and such only worked in the tiniest of historical blips..

  4. VERY interesting article on CNBC today regarding the chaos in the airline industry:

    “A toxic culture and ‘race to the bottom’: Pilots open up on why air travel is in chaos”

    Of particular interest:

    ““They’ve told us pilots we are on pay cuts until at least 2030 — except all the managers are back on full pay plus pay rises for inflation,” a pilot for British Airways said. ”

    “The airlines “were happy to try and depress wages for lots of people in the industry for years, on the assumption that nobody had anywhere else to go,” the pilot said. “And now that people are exercising their right to go somewhere else, they are shocked, which is incredible. I’m shocked that they’re shocked.””

    ““Crony capitalists. Rat race to the bottom. No respect for skilled workforce now,” the BA pilot said of the industry’s corporate leadership. “They just want the cheapest labor to produce their own big bonuses and keep shareholders happy.””

    • Thanks for the link. It’s good to see this stuff finally reported in MSM.

  5. BA has received preliminary clearance to resume 787 deliveries”

    “(Bloomberg) — Boeing Co. received preliminary US regulatory clearance to restart deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner aircraft, paving the way for the end to a drought that drained cash and dented the planemaker’s reputation for quality.”

    “The FAA agreement is a milestone for the company, but it won’t immediately resume sales. Boeing must still make required fixes and get FAA inspectors to approve each aircraft, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information hasn’t been publicly announced. While timing of delivery resumptions remains unclear, the company is aiming to begin in the week of Aug. 8, one of the people said.”


    Sounds like a slow, tedious process…

    • Just days ago you were saying Aug date for resumption was just another pipe dream.
      Instead your false claims are refuted just as your latest ones are just as baseless

      • Wrong again.
        The “august date for resumption” was for *deliveries* — not for *initiation* of a process to “make required fixes and get FAA inspectors to approve each aircraft”.

        There *might* be a delivery of 1 or 2 aircraft in August — but those have been undergoing rework for months (they were spotted in the 747 hanger several weeks ago during a tour for journalists). After that, when will a continual stream of deliveries begin?

        In this case, the proof of the pudding is in the eating…


        “…just as your latest ones are just as baseless”

        And what’s that a reference to?
        *BA’s debt figures — where you were wrong?
        *The provisional nature of the MAX re-cert in the EU — where you were wrong?
        *The A321neo range figures — where you were wrong?

        Something else?
        Do humor us…

      • I wonder about the details- particularly the small-sampling that Boeing was proposing for deep 787

        • Me too.

          And I find it remarkable that BA isn’t trumpeting about this. Perhaps there’s a kink in tne carpet that we haven’t been told about yet?

          • All the coyness makes me wonder, but maybe it’s fine. BCA could sure use the money from delivered 787s.

          • @ Bill7
            It’s great news for BA (if it’s true) — and that company needs every bit of good news it can get!
            But, for the time being at least, the meager numbers coming out of the hangars aren’t going to put much butter on BA’s bread. Bear in mind that the (substantial) rework costs have an erosive effect on margins.

  6. One would think: Just take a look at what Bombardier did with the C-Series and take it from there, but maybe I am missing the big picture somehow…

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