The flurry of new airliner orders in the first half of 2011, coupled with rising demand from other industries, has proved to be a boon to aluminum suppliers like Alcoa, which more than doubled its second quarter earnings in results announced on July 11. But subsequent stock market reaction, which saw Alcoa stock fall the next day, revealed how volatile the commodities sector can be.
Just days after commending President Obama for his June 28 visit to an Alcoa plant in Davenport, Iowa, Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) president and CEO Marion Blakey found his next day broadside against business aviation “baffling and disturbing.”
Aluminum giant Alcoa (H5 F220) is here exhibiting a fuselage section manufactured with advanced aluminum-lithium alloy sheet that was stretch-formed on existing tooling by Spirit Aerosystems’ factory in Wichita, Kansas. U.S.-based Alcoa is targeting the next generation of single-aisle aircraft (with a clear focus on Boeing’s expected decision this year) as the potential first applications.
Notwithstanding the unprecedented scale of composites content in the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350XWB airliners, aluminum still reigns as the material of choice in most airliner fuselage applications. At least that’s the message Alcoa–the aluminum company–wants to send here in Farnborough, where scores of examples of flying machines made of the metals the company supplies grace the static display.
At a time when the state-of-the-art in aerostructures design more and more often involves the use of carbon-fiber laminates, companies like Alcoa Aerospace suddenly face a perception challenge unrivaled since aluminum became the material of choice in airplane construction. So the timing of Alcoa Aerospace’s first industry forum, held in New York City on May 2, came as little surprise.