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The business of private jets is booming. Whether they’re proven traditional models or new high-tech ones, most of these planes are at least partly made of composite materials, and increasingly so.

There are two schools when it comes to what materials to build your private jet with. Some go for the traditional all-aluminum formula, whereas others rely almost entirely on composites. Most manufacturers sit somewhere in between, their choice of materials being guided by cost, philosophy of design and history. Sometimes decisions are made part by part, “but they definitely look at composites whatever the case,” says Shawn-Ann Speer, senior account manager at Solvay’s Composite Materials Global Business Unit (GBU). “It all depends on what the customer wants.”

Whatever the ratio of composites on a plane, Solvay is a major supplier of these many resin types including those with a high toughness to support primary structure applications. And beyond composites, Solvay also supplies this industry with “supporting materials like adhesives and lightning strike surface films that ensure the aircraft isn’t damaged when struck by lightning.” 

Doing pretty well

Surprisingly, just about any part of a plane can be made of composite materials. From the fuselage, in other words the entire body of the aircraft, to the radome (the plane’s nose containing the radar equipment), flight surfaces such as ailerons and flaps, and interior structures like cockpit panels or kitchenettes. Certain models are almost all composites, with only the wings remaining made of metal.

For Solvay, business aviation is an important market, in which the company has been involved for over three decades. That being said, “This is a very unique and cyclical market,” says Shawn-Ann. “It’s dependent on macro-economic factors like oil prices or the state of the economy. Right now, the market is doing pretty well, with all the manufacturers introducing new models.” 



Hybrid and electric jets

New models and technologies are also emerging, such as electric, hybrid and supersonic jets. For these advanced aircraft, lightweighting is ever more crucial, and Solvay’s composites offer an ideal solution in that respect. “These manufacturers mostly use Solvay’s existing materials, but if they’re looking for very unique properties, we can modify our existing resins to meet their needs.”

For example, some manufacturers are actively looking at building “flying taxis”, a new type of airplane that will basically resemble a flying car, for which they are  “highly interested in translating what the automotive industry is doing in terms of high-volume cost-effective adoption of composites to the aerospace environment.” Solvay’s lightweighting expertise is in high demand across the board … and sky.





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