Over a century ago, in December 1903, Wright Brothers’ first human-crewed flight took place onboard the Wright Flyer in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. It was the first powered, controlled, heavier-than-air airplane. The aircraft was built using wood, wires, and fabric on significant components. Since that time, major advancements in aircraft structural materials have been noticed. This article highlights the evolution of airframe materials and critical developments in recent times.
The Wright Brothers’ era
Various types of wood, metal wires, and fabrics of varying densities were used to manufacture the Wright Flyer. The Wrights used spruce for straight parts of the wings, such as wing spars. The ash wood was used for curved surfaces, including the ribs of the wings. The wooden frame was covered with a finely-woven cotton cloth, sealed with paraffin-based canvas paint. The metal fittings on the airframe were made from steel.