Airbus and Boeing not ready for composite new small airplane: Leahy

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Neither Airbus nor Boeing is ready to proceed with a composite-based new small airplane for probably another 10 years, said John Leahy, COO Customers for Airbus.

In remarks following his presentation to the Credit Suisse Aerospace conference today, Leahy said neither company has learned yet how to efficiently build composite airplanes nor have they been able to apply them to a new small airplane.

"The single aisle isn't ready for 2020-21," Leahy said. "It would probably be built to a large degree out of aluminium. We haven't figured out how to get the theoretical efficiencies out of composites, especially when you scale them down and difficulties with the manufacturing process.

"Right now we're building the [A350 and 787] airplane too much like a metal airplane. It doesn't look like Boeing is getting tremendous savings in [their 787 barrel process] either. It's not obvious that we know how to use in manufacturing techniques now composites to their best advantage. I think after 10 years of building the 787 and A350, and learning how you can work with composites, until a whole new generation of our engines and Boeing engineers having grown up with aluminium grow up with composites, then we're going to see the breakthroughs," he said.

"If you commit to an airplane for 2020-2021, you're basically freezing the technology today."