Military Aircraft Parts: Plastic Fabricators Set to Fill Shortage

military aircraft parts

A shortage of military aircraft parts has grounded a significant portion of the Marine Corps’ aircraft. At the end of 2016, nearly 60% of their aircraft were considered temporarily non-mission capable due to a lack of parts to make them operational. Not only does this affect military readiness, it means there are not enough aircraft available for aviators to meet their flight hour goals, which is necessary for both proficiency and safety. The answer to the current parts shortage can be found in plastic manufacturing and fabrication companies.

Replacing Military Aircraft Parts with Specialty Plastics

Plastics were first used in airplanes during World War II to replace rubber components due to the shortage of many industrial materials. Plastic parts also made the aircraft lighter, extending flight ranges and helping them avoid radar detection. Since their first use, plastic military aircraft parts have evolved to become viable alternatives to traditional metal components. This is thanks to engineered plastics, such as:

  1. PEEK (polyetheretherketone) – PEEK is a remarkable polymer with superior mechanical performance and thermal properties. It has an operating temperature range of up to 450º, excellent creep resistance and hydrolysis resistance, and low flammability. PEEK’s unique properties and wide temperature operating range make it perfect for aerospace use.
  2. PAI (polyamide-imide) – Better known by its trademark name, Torlon®, this plastic is resistant to radiation and most chemicals at room temperature. It is flame retardant and does not give off smoke when burning. It offers unparalleled strength, particularly at high temperatures. PAI also delivers superior dimensional stability over its entire use range.
  3. Thermosetting polyimide – With a higher ductility than ceramics and lower weight than metals, this plastic is often chosen for structural applications in aircraft. It also has excellent mechanical properties and a high resistance to chemicals.
  4. PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) – Also known as Teflon, PTFE is a fluorocarbon polymer that is great for insulating wires and cables in an aircraft. PTFE is an electrical insulation with high tear resistance and low flammability that retains its properties in aerospace conditions.
  5. PCTFE (polychlorotrifluoroethylene) – This fluorochemical plastic has great electrical properties and a temperature application that ranges from -400ºF to +400ºF. It has the optimal blend of physical and mechanical properties, fire and chemical resistance, and very low moisture absorption. As such, it is ideal for parts that will be outside or in corrosive environments.

Reading Plastic: Manufacturing and Fabricating Military Aircraft Parts

At Reading Plastic, we have built exceptional plastic parts for every branch of the Armed Forces. We are compliant with aviation and Department of Defense standards, ensuring the military aircraft parts we produce will meet spec. For more information, call us today at 610-926-3245.

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