Airbus and MIT Teaming Up to Make Aircraft Construction Lighter and Cheaper

It has been a pretty exciting couple of days for me.  Despite not flying, which is always sad, I have been having some amazing discussions with friends, both online and offline about helping to boost the pilot population, and making that dream more attainable for everyone.  If you haven’t been following the comments on my post about Becoming a Pilot on a Budget, I would highly encourage you to do so because it has gotten me even more excited about flying than usual.  Some people just have amazing ideas.

One of the predominant topics of discussion these last few days has been about the cost of aircraft as that leads to many of the high costs of flying.  One of the great suggestions in the comments from the post above has been about restoring an older aircraft which is one of the things I am so excited about.  However, that may not be an option for a lot of people who either don’t have the time, talents, or desire to do something like that.

For other people maybe a light sport aircraft would be a solution as they are significantly cheaper than their larger counterparts.  There are some pretty sweet aircraft out there if you do a little searching.  Even if you don’t want to, I intend to do more in the coming weeks and share what I find.  The downside with many of these is they are quite small and go relatively slow.

This is a small example of digital material technology.

This is a small example of digital material technology.

So what does any of this have to do with Airbus and MIT, because if you can’t afford a Cessna 172 you probably can’t afford a tire off of an A380.  Airbus and MIT are teaming up to explore the use of digital material technology in aircraft.  In short, digital material technology is based on the idea that a complex structure can be built utilizing a number of simpler components.

In the press release they describe this method as something akin to playing with Legos.  Not only is the structure easier to assemble and disassemble, but it is also extremely durable and lightweight.  All of these attributes could lead to changes in the way that aircraft big and small are manufactured.

So not only would aircraft be lighter, meaning they need less fuel, but they could be manufactured more inexpensively.  A lower initial cost means more people would be able to afford it as well as lower insurance rates.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not under the delusion that all of a sudden we will be able to buy a single-engine four-seat aircraft for $50,000 that only burns two gallons per hour, but any reduction in cost is a step in the right direction.  Help from the manufacturers is useful, but if we are really going to change the aviation industry and get more people flying, it will have to come from each of us.  Expect to see a lot of posts on this topic in the coming weeks and months.