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Advanced Low-Cost Aircraft Structures


The ALCAS project will maintain and enhance the competitive position of the European Aerospace industry, in the face of significant challenges from strong global competition. The specific aim is to contribute to reducing the operating costs of relevant European aerospace products by 15%, through the cost-effective, full application of carbon fibre composites to aircraft primary structures. The target products range from business jets to large civil airliners.

Project objectives

The objective for airliner platforms is a 20% weight saving, with a zero increase in recurring cost against metallic structures. The wing platform will build on the TANGO outer wing, from the TANGO Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) Technology Platform project, to address the most challenging parts of the inner wing structure, including engine and landing gear attachment. The fuselage platform will investigate the impact of complex fuselage design features, enhanced damage capability and system integration requirements. It is also expected to show that maintenance costs will be reduced, taking advantage of less fatigue and corrosion.

The objective for business jet platforms is a 20-30% reduction in recurring costs, with a 10% weight saving against metallic structures. The wing platform will focus on high-structural integration. Validation will be through design, manufacture and test of a full-scale wing of partial length, and a full-scale rear fuselage with sandwich construction, vertical and horizontal tailplanes and engine attachment, which will consider system installation constraints.

Description of the work

The project is organised into four technical platforms, as outlined below.

‘Airliner Wing’ covers the design, manufacture and testing of an inner wing and centre box of a large civil airliner, focusing on the centre box to lateral wing root joint, landing gear and pylon integration, and the highly loaded, complex curvature lower cover. The knowledge and experience gained from this platform will build on that gained from the wing platforms during the TANGO project, and will enable the full application of carbon fibre composites to primary wing structures.

‘Airliner Fuselage’ builds upon the knowledge gained from the TANGO Composite Fuselage platform for current fuselage areas. This platform is the next logical step towards the application of a composite fuselage to a large civil airliner. It covers component tests to address key fuselage challenges and complex design features, including large cut-outs and large damages in curved panels, keel beam and landing gear load introduction, tyre-impact damage, post-buckling and elementary crash analysis.

‘Business Jet Wing’ covers the application of carbon fibre composites to business jet wings, focusing on reducing costs by combining parts into an integrated wing structure, and includes architecture studies to identify the best wing joint configuration. Current technology is seen as prohibitively expensive for business jet applications, and this research is aimed at developing and validating a cost-effective solution. A business jet-sized wing structure will be designed, manufactured and tested.

The ‘Business Jet Fuselage’ platform covers the research required for the application of carbon fibre composites to business jet fuselages. A double curved rear fuselage with a sandwich shell, vertical/horizontal tailplanes and engine integration will be studied. It will build on the FUBACOMP FP5 project, to provide the knowledge and experience for exploitation in real products. A business jet-sized rear fuselage structure will be designed, manufactured and tested.

Expected results

Expected results include down-selection results showing which innovative technologies offer the best cost/weight benefits for structural applications. It will also provide the knowledge and experience to offer a cost- and weight-effective, full composite wing, and composite business jet fuselage. Specific understanding will be developed on high-point load inputs into composite structures, high structural integration, novel materials and joining technologies, cost effective tooling and damage analysis.