First applications of composite material in home built or GA aircraft

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Riggerrob

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Dear MadMac,
DeHavilland's TK 4 was built by students/apprentices at their in-house technical school during 1937. Its construction was composite with all organic materials: balsa and plywood.. The fuselage and fixed flying surfaces were conventional wooden construction covered in plywood. The plywood wing leading edge was backed by an inch - or so - of balsa to support and smooth it in lieu of ribs inside the D spar.

TK 4 control surfaces were the most innovative. Since they were built around large blocks of balsa covered with plywood. They had vertical (perpendicular to ribs) lightening holes maybe 4 inches in diameter. Yes, lightning holes may have reduced weight a bit, but their primary function was better balancing control surfaces to reduce aerodynamic flutter, a phenomenon that was poorly understood before World War 2.
In this way, TK 4 construction methods pre-dated Burt Rutan's (circa 1970) mold-less composite construction.
 

opcod

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The sole term of composite is quite dateless, as tribemen did build their house with dirt, water and dry grass. So that,s full composite. For aviation, i was mostly in small part and never a full composite body like any new carbon/fiberglass bird. The term you search is Bakelite and those phenolic sheet start with some button in ww1 plane, but no structure per say. But first application.
 

Pops

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The sole term of composite is quite dateless, as tribemen did build their house with dirt, water and dry grass. So that,s full composite. For aviation, i was mostly in small part and never a full composite body like any new carbon/fiberglass bird. The term you search is Bakelite and those phenolic sheet start with some button in ww1 plane, but no structure per say. But first application.
You answered my question. When was Bakelite first used. It was used on some early hand cranked telephones.
 

Paul Saccani

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There was a composite Spitfire fuselage built during WWII for test purposes.

De havilland aircraft definitely used a form of construction, we would find familiar as composite (plywood over balsa core,functions quite similar to cloth over foam) and used repair mechanisms very similar in detail to composite repairs today. Not sure what aircraft DH really introduced this in DH88, DH91 and TK 4 used elements of this well before the DH98 mosquito.
A5D529CC-76D8-43EA-AC72-33311FAC334A.jpeg
Flax and phenolic resin Spitfire fuselage, tested in case of an aluminium shortage. As ersatz aluminium, no great advantage, if redesigned to suit the material, it probably could have saved a lot of weight. I think it was called aerolite, one area where it was greatly used was in the seat of the Spitfire, with a new design to suit the material, rather than pretending it was aluminium.
 

n45bm

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I first started using epoxy glue in building my model airplanes in the engine mount area and LG area in 1958. Same time I was building my radio equipment for my first RC airplane. 5 watt RF transmitter in a box setting on the ground with a cord with a push button, with a 9' antenna powered by a vibrator power supply from a 6 volt car radio using a 6 volt car battery. Single tube receiver operating a relay that operate a simple rubber powered escapement for rudder only. .15 engine on a Debolt Live-Wire Trainer. Put over 3000 flights on it and rebuilt crash damage 3 times and one fly away and a deer hunter found it, and returned it about 3 months latter when he found my name, address and phone number I had in the fuselage.
That almost sounds like it was in pre historic times, Pops. My first radio was a Heathkit that I assembled, a big blue box, so that seems almost as long ago too. Almost.
 

canardlover

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I first started using epoxy glue in building my model airplanes in the engine mount area and LG area in 1958. Same time I was building my radio equipment for my first RC airplane. 5 watt RF transmitter in a box setting on the ground with a cord with a push button, with a 9' antenna powered by a vibrator power supply from a 6 volt car radio using a 6 volt car battery. Single tube receiver operating a relay that operate a simple rubber powered escapement for rudder only. .15 engine on a Debolt Live-Wire Trainer. Put over 3000 flights on it and rebuilt crash damage 3 times and one fly away and a deer hunter found it, and returned it about 3 months latter when he found my name, address and phone number I had in the fuselage.

Remember those days myself going the flying field on Long Island with my father who was in it back then. I started flying with single channel escapement myself as well. Bonner equipment. Remember hopping in the car and chasing models after loss of signal or CB interference. Good old 27 mhz equipment.

Jeff
 

canardlover

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That almost sounds like it was in pre historic times, Pops. My first radio was a Heathkit that I assembled, a big blue box, so that seems almost as long ago too. Almost.
Built one of those as well, were very good reliable radio systems.
 

dog

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View attachment 113446
Flax and phenolic resin Spitfire fuselage, tested in case of an aluminium shortage. As ersatz aluminium, no great advantage, if redesigned to suit the material, it probably could have saved a lot of weight. I think it was called aerolite, one area where it was greatly used was in the seat of the Spitfire, with a new design to suit the material, rather than pretending it was aluminium.
You almost got it,they designed while Hittler
provided a reminder of what they were about.
War.
And as a war contingency they designed as to minimise the impact on factory floors,where thousands of ordinary men and women came to work to pound rivets while the bombs fell.
No time or energy to retrain.

The first thermo plastics were invented in the 1850’s.And I know that celluloid found use in
early aviation,though it would yellow and is quite flamable.
 

Fiberglassworker

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Celluloid is a material made by plasticizing nitrocellulose with the assistance of camphor. This substance was first invented in the 1800s as a replacement for ivory and bone, and its uses later greatly expanded, perhaps most notably into the world of film. It is also the basis for Nitrate Dope.
 

Riggerrob

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Celluloid is a material made by plasticizing nitrocellulose with the assistance of camphor. This substance was first invented in the 1800s as a replacement for ivory and bone, and its uses later greatly expanded, perhaps most notably into the world of film. It is also the basis for Nitrate Dope.
During World War 1, Germany built a handful of experimental airplanes covered with clear cellophane. They hoped that clear "fabric" would make them almost invisible to WALLIES.
Unfortunately, cellophane expanded and contracted too much when humidity changed.
 

Bill-Higdon

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The Russians also experimented with a clear covering. I can't remember the name now. Also Ken Champion's Jupiter aircraft had a composite skin over wood. They predated the KR series
 

Pilot-34

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Most of me is in IL but my hearts in Alaska
There was an engineering firm in Tucson Arizona trying to sell the rights they had acquired to a twin engine fiberglass body seaplane
If I remember the specifications right this plane could not maintain altitude on a single engine but somebody told me it was approved in the 1930s so it was ok.
 

cluttonfred

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Fundamentally, the OP's question in this thread comes down to the definition of "composite". If we are talking resin-infused-cloth, that's one thing, but if we are talking combinations of different materials that's another. Duramold and Aeromold and similar resin-infused wood systems are one branch, the laminated wood and cloth systems used in WWI planes like the Albatros are another, or even the plywood in concrete molds used in the early Loughead -- later Lockheed ;-) -- designs. There are were also some systems using aluminum bonded to plywood in WWII. Miles Aircraft were also experimenting with phenolic/asbestos and paper honeycomb with in an unsuccessful experimental sailplane as early as 1947.
 
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