Sonic Cruiser partner GKN shifts to 7E7 programme

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Boeing has identified UK aerostructures company GKN Aerospace Services as participating in its 7E7 twin-jet development programme, following the US firm’s decision to shelve the Sonic Cruiser project to which GKN was also linked.

GKN is to assist with developing robust structures for the aircraft – such as composites and aluminium alloys – which will provide strength while reducing overall weight.

Boeing has indicated that it is preparing to make a decision on the types of materials to be used on the 7E7 later this year.

GKN had been one of the partners brought together by Boeing for the Sonic Cruiser project, which was to have heavily relied on the manufacturer of advanced materials and aerostructures.

The two companies have ties through GKN’s acquisition two years ago of the Boeing structures operation in St Louis and its subsequent purchase of the Boeing Thermal Joining Centre in the northwest USA.

Boeing 7E7 programme senior vice-president Mike Bair says: “GKN is providing skill and expertise as we evaluate the materials possibilities for the [aircraft].”

The 7E7 will be a 200-250 seat long-range aircraft designed as a successor to aircraft such as the Boeing 767 and 757.

Bair adds: “We are making great progress and I believe that we will be ready to make a final materials technology selection near the middle of this year.”

Other companies involved in the technology development include Italy’s Alenia, Austrian firm Fischer Advanced Composite Components, Fokker Services of the Netherlands and AHF-Ducommun of the USA.