Won’t happen, not a chance

Sir Richard Branson has raised the prospect of planes being made entirely from the so-called wonder material graphene within 10 years, as the airline industry battles a 50pc increase in fuel in the last 12 months, sparking a desperate need for ever lighter fleets.

The Virgin Atlantic president, who founded the airline in 1984, described the super-lightweight material as a ‘breakthrough technology’, which he said could help revolutionise the airline industry and transform its cost base.

It’s wonderful stuff, no doubt about it. But it’ll not be making airplanes in a decade’s time.

For the simple reason that the testing process for a new airplane alloy is more than 10 years.

15 comments on “Won’t happen, not a chance

  1. Indeed. I know an aeronautical engineer at the university in Delft who tests the materials to be used in aircraft and the development window is around 12 to 15 years.

  2. Where’s this 50% fuel increase come from? If it’s from an increase in the oil price it’s still way lower than it was for most of the past decade.

  3. Andrew K – “The possibilities of Bakelite are far from exhausted.”

    The Russians had a shortage of aluminium during the war. So one of their fighters used bakelite for its outer skin.

    The Yak-9 I think.

    I am willing to bet that the majority of planes flying today will still be flying in ten years time. And that fuel will be even cheaper.

  4. Ah, if it is Branson, then the plane will be unlikely to fly. That is if there is a functioning schedule. If you do get to the airport and by some miracle have a ticket, there will not be a seat. If you try phoning your account will be blocked because they have lost the connection and unluckily closed your account.

  5. Having enjoyed more than a few crosswind landings in planes built out of metal I’m not entirely convinced of the benefits of jet powered sails.

  6. We certainly need a whole new technology in aircraft design. Being able to adopt new materials without a 10-15 years testing period would be a good one.

  7. The Mosquito proved a wonderful success in The War. It was built of wood.

    In the first lecture I attended in Materials Science, the lecturer declared “There’s a lot to be said for wood as a material of construction.” But strangely he drove a steel car.

  8. @ BiCR
    Yeah! – so that a stress fracture along the grain only affects one layer. That it was invisible to radar was an unplanned bonus.
    There was also a shortage of Aluminium

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