Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has shipped the first composite-material wing box for the 787 Dreamliner to Boeing’s Everett Plant in Washington.
The shipment yesterday, from the Oye Plant of MHI’s Nagoya Aerospace Systems Works in Nagoya Prefecture, marks the first time a composite material has been used in 30-metre-long wing boxes for aeroplanes.
To produce the wing boxes for Boeing, MHI constructed two new factories at its Nagoya Aerospace Systems Works – a composite-material fabrication facility to undertake forming of composite-material parts for the wing boxes, and an assembly facility to build the wing boxes.
The new facilities were opened in June and September 2006, respectively. The fabrication facility features one of the world’s largest autoclaves.
In April 2006, MHI also completed construction of a factory to manufacture composite-material skin stringers, one of the reinforcement components for the 787 wing boxes, at its Shimonoseki Shipyard and Machinery Works in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
The composite material used for the wing boxes is carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP). CFRP is superior in strength, rigidity and corrosive resistance compared with conventional aluminium or titanium alloys.
According to Boeing, lighter airframes using composite material, new engines and more aerodynamic aircraft will provide a 20 percent improvement in fuel efficiency and a 30 percent reduction in maintenance costs compared with conventional aircraft.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, a mid-size aircraft approximately 57 metres long, 17 metres high and with a wingspan of 60 metres, will carry 210-250 passengers. The 787 program is making steady progress toward its targets of a first flight in 2007 and entry into service in 2008.