Stephan Wilkinson first wrote about composite aircraft (plastic as he called them) in 1968 while working as an editor for Flying magazine.

In April 1995, Aviation Consumer published an article by Wilkinson that reached a conclusion that remains valid today:

“You can reduce weight and you can reduce cost, but neither in 1968 nor in 1995 is it possible to do both simultaneously with composites.”

Further he quoted Peter Garrison:

“You’re using the stuff at different temperatures, the resin gets old, you may not mix it as well one day, you might not sand as zealously as you thought you did, or your sandpaper might even be contaminated. These uncertainties can be eliminated by careful quality control. But the fact is that none of them exist with metal.”

Wilkinson also posed some thought provoking questions:

“Have composites been overhyped?

Is it true-as one Boeing engineer was heard to say some years ago- that “the more we learn about composites, the better aluminum looks”?

Are composites in fact trendy, imperfect materials best applied to a few unusual scenarios-airliners that operate for tens of thousands of hours, cost-no-object military aircraft, kitplanes that require snap-together ease of construction? Should we assume that composites won’t ever replace aluminum as the material of choice in the general aviation industry?

Yes, no and maybe.”