Sponsored By

The Chinese-developed C919 passenger jet celebrated its first successful trial flight on May 5, 2017. Flying on board was a lightweight foam from Germany’s Evonik: Rohacell rigid foam.

Stephen Moore

September 4, 2017

2 Min Read
Polymethacrylimide foam takes off in homegrown Chinese passenger jet

Evonik Industries is delivering a precisely customized lightweight construction application for Comac’s C919 airliner that reduces its weight by several kilos and saves fuel, thus making the aircraft energy efficient. For the rear section of the fuselage, Evonik's experts developed a prototype for the large rear pressure bulkhead from Rohacell. This PMI (polymethacrylimide) based composite material is extremely light—an important factor, because in aviation every kilo counts. It also enhances rigidity, makes the fuselage more stable, and so improves safety.

Chinese jet gets a helping hand from German specialty lightweight foam.

"Just five months after approval of the designs, we supplied the Rohacell molded part ready for use, and are continuing to helping Comac with further development," says Jacky Yang, regional manager for Rohacell in aircraft applications for the Chinese market. Other composite parts using Rohacell in the C919 are the radome, landing gear door, auxiliary power unit access door, and the trailing edges of several control panels. Yang adds "Aircraft makers want high-quality lightweight materials and the whole thing should of course be cost efficient. So Rohacell scores on every point." It's no surprise that the composite has been in demand for many years in the aviation industry.

While Comac claims that 570 orders have already been received for the aircraft, with around 10% of these from Germany and Thailand, observers note that it remains to be seen whether the jet will be a success and these orders will be fulfilled or not. According to a recent Forbes report, “Comac has mandated local production of every major component and subsystem, with no intellectual property protection for the partners transferring the necessary technology.” This in effect means that foreign partners end up transferring dated technology. This might make the C919 uncompetitive versus Western aircraft in term of fuel efficiency.

The C919 also needs to be certified by a Western regulatory agency. Comac’s ARJ21, a 78-seat regional jet, took it first flight in November 2008 but wasn’t certified by Chinese authorities until December 2014. Further, the ARJ21 has not yet been certified by a Western regulatory agency and only three have so far been delivered, to an airline owned by Comac itself, who earlier had claimed up to 340 orders had been secured.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Moore

Stephen has been with PlasticsToday and its preceding publications Modern Plastics and Injection Molding since 1992, throughout this time based in the Asia Pacific region, including stints in Japan, Australia, and his current location Singapore. His current beat focuses on automotive. Stephen is an avid folding bicycle rider, often taking his bike on overseas business trips, and is a proud dachshund owner.

Sign up for the PlasticsToday NewsFeed newsletter.

You May Also Like