The first airplanes were made of wood, but the introduction of new materials, such as steel, made air travel safer. Thanks to the durability and resistance of this metal, it is now used in several parts of aircrafts. Here is what you need to know.
In 1903, the Wright brothers succeeded in making their wooden airplane fly for the first time. This accomplishment took place in Kitty Hawk Bay, Ohio, United States. Since then, the aeronautical industry began its expansion and research to find better materials and techniques that would offer greater safety to the crew.
At first, elements such as aluminum, titanium and, of course, steel were used in the creation of airplanes. However, in order to reduce their weight and achieve greater flight stability, aeronautical industry researchers found that they could use several materials at the same time for certain components.
This led to the use of composite materials, such as polymers and reinforced fibers, which became the most efficient and reliable option for aeronautics. Remember that each aircraft must withstand adverse weather conditions, constant operation and extreme temperatures, so its materials must be of the highest quality and resistance.
Aircraft manufacturing today
In the 20th century, the aeronautical industry underwent extensive experimentation to find the ideal combination of metals and fibers that would provide the necessary strength to fly through the sky for hours at a time. A number of combinations were tested that have made airplanes one of the safest means of transportation today.
As mentioned by Metinvest Group, "if we analyze the proportion of composite materials used in Boeing airplanes, we will see that in the first models this proportion was around 5%. And now, the percentage of composite materials in the total weight of the company's manufactured airplanes can be as high as 50%."
According to AERTEC, an international company specializing in aerospace technology, composite materials "arise from the union of two or more different materials, insoluble and separable by mechanical action." The most commonly used in the sector, according to the same company, are those containing carbon or glass fiber as reinforcement.
Although modern aircraft are built largely with the elements mentioned above, steel still plays a major role in their structure. Landing gears, engine parts, exhaust valves, fasteners, gears and coatings are some of the parts manufactured with this iron-carbon alloy.
It is important to emphasize that steel is 100% recyclable and it is common in the aviation industry to reuse steel parts as spare parts or for the creation of new aircraft. World Steel Association mentions that, "Germany's national airline, Lufthansa, has developed a new approach in which its own aircraft are recycled and reused to service its existing fleet."
As a result, they explain, several valuable parts are extracted from disused aircraft, including steel-intensive parts such as landing gear and engines, and given a new purpose. For this reason, the aeronautical sector has the opportunity to generate less waste and make the most of aircraft materials, which have an average useful life of 20 to 25 years.
Thanks to its durability and strength, steel continues to be essential for the aeronautical industry, for assembling the infrastructure necessary for airplanes to take off and land correctly and safely.