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Boeing says non-metal 737s not far off

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The new Boeing 787-Dreamliner will be constructed out of non-metal materials called composites.

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(CNN) -- Forget big metal birds of steel, the aircraft of the future will be constructed out of non-metal materials.

That is according to American plane-maker Boeing which says new technology will soon enable us to take flights in carriers largely constructed from materials called composites.

Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said the company was looking to replace existing 737 models with the new materials.

A composite is formed when two or more materials with very different properties are combined together. They are already used in items such as tennis rackets and bicycle spokes.

Boeing's new 787-Dreamliner is built from composites and will set a precedent for future Boeing models, Britain's Press Association reported ahead of the Farnborough Air Show, held in England this week and one of the biggest events on the aviation calendar.

The 787 is expected to make its first flight in mid-2007 and deliver the first models to customers in 2008.

The aircraft is made from a combination of non-metal carbon fiber composite materials, which is lighter than the aluminum normally used.

This reduces the weight of the aircraft and leads to better fuel efficiency. Boeing predicts the 787s will be 20 percent more efficient than its 767 planes.

"All future planes will be made out of composites because it doesn't fatigue and it doesn't corrode," Mulally said.

He said composite material would be used to build up to 50 percent of each aircraft and would significantly reduce the cost of building and maintaining them.

Mulally predicted that the technology needed to build the new Boeing 737s would not be ready until the middle of the next decade.

"What's absolutely key is getting our technology to a position where it's right to do this," he said.

Mulally also said that, like rival Airbus, the company was experiencing supply problems and the weight of the 787 had exceeded its target, although he wouldn't elaborate on how much.

"We're a little over where we want to be at this time on weight, but ahead of where we were on previous programs, so we're really focused on weight-efficient structure right now," he told Associated Press.

Boeing has had 360 firm orders for the new 787.

Airbus was expected to make an announcement on Monday about revamping the design of its middle-weight plane, the A350, at the Farnborough Airshow.

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