Brazilian airframer Embraer has signed a technology sharing agreement with aluminium producer Alcoa to support the development of "new high-performance metallic fuselage and wing solutions for its family of aircraft", according to Alcoa.
This would seem to indicate Embraer's next-generation E-Jets will retain a mainly metallic airframe, rather than attempting to introduce composites to its construction.
Alcoa said it has developed new aluminium alloys, including aluminium lithium alloys, advanced design and manufacturing techniques as well as fasteners, which "will lower the weight, cost and maintenance of new aircraft, compared to composites".
It said these could slash an aircraft's weight by up to 10% and, due to aerodynamically more efficient airframe surfaces with up to 6% lower skin friction drag, improve fuel economy by 12% compared to "composite-intensive" aircraft.
Manufacturing, operational and repair costs could be up to 30% lower while production risks would be "significantly" reduced, the company added.
Embraer last week announced it was likely to re-engine its E-Jet family, including a possible stretch of the E-195, rather than introduce an all-new aircraft.