The secret behind the Aerospace and Aviation Industry: high performance plastics

4 October 2021

The aerospace industry, which spans a host of applications from aviation to industrial and military purposes, has taken innovations in plastic materials into a broader space. While metals are mainstay in the aerospace industry, since the 1970s, plastics have been found to bring their benefits by providing key breakthroughs in aircraft weight as plastics have been seen to reduce aircraft weight by as much as 50%.

Beyond lightweighting, plastics have been meeting the aerospace industry’s requirements for strength and durability, resistance to corrosion or fatigue; impact-resistance, high thermal stability, and ease of parts assembly. A broad range of materials, such as polyetheretherketone (PEEK), thermosetting polyimide (PI), polyamide-imide (PAI), polychlorotrifluoroethylene (PCTFE), among others, are now being tapped for their inherent properties.

Airbus 350

The shift from heavy metal to lightweight high-tech plastic materials brought into the limelight the use of carbon fiber or glass fiber-reinforced plastic. To date, carbon fiber composites are used to produce large and more complex parts for the aerospace industry. From narrowbodies such as the Airbus 320, the use of composite materials has brought popular models Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 into history as examples of how material innovations have created major leaps in the aviation industry.


The Airbus A350 XWB is a wide body jetliner that is made up of more than 50% composites that 25% reduction in fuel cost has been achieved. The A350 XWB’s wing, which measures 32×6 meters, is the biggest single aviation part that is produced from carbon fiber reinforced plastic.