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June 18, 2003

Alcoa Unveils Strategic Initiative to Develop Advanced Metallic Products for Current and Next-Generation Airliners


Alcoa (NYSE:AA) today unveiled a strategic development initiative aimed at redefining the cost and weight performance of advanced metallic structures, with the goal of helping aircraft manufacturers design and produce commercial aircraft meeting the needs of the world's airlines.

The Alcoa 20-20 initiative will provide a 20 percent weight reduction and 20 percent lower cost for metallic aircraft components - a goal that is to be reached in a building-block approach over the next 20 years.

"Alcoa's 20-20 initiative is focused on two objectives. The first is to shift current thinking about the cost and weight performance of metallics. The second is to develop new generations of innovative metallic structures that will help our customers break existing paradigms associated with manufacturing built-up structures," William F. Christopher, President of Alcoa's Aerospace, Automotive and Commercial Transportation business group told reporters at the Paris Air Show.

Christopher said the initiative responds to the needs of aircraft manufacturers to design, engineer and manufacture products capable of meeting the requirements of the world's airlines for aircraft that are affordable, with lower operating and maintenance costs and that are compatible with their current infrastructure.

Prototype development of Alcoa 20-20 components is well advanced, and several examples were unveiled this week during the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport. The first building-block components are now being offered to aircraft manufacturers and operators for initial applications on both passenger and cargo aircraft.

"The 20-20 initiative's building block allows improvements to be introduced incrementally," Christopher said. "This significantly improves the probability of success and reduces the risks associated with implementing our advanced metallic products -- not only on future generations of aircraft, but with retrofitting them to current platforms and using them on derivatives, as well."

Christopher stressed Alcoa's need to work side-by-side with its customers' designers and engineers, merging Alcoa's knowledge with theirs to create the building blocks that will enable the success of the initiative.

Alcoa's 20-20 initiative is the result of the company's continuing dialog with its broad international aerospace customer base. Alcoa recently completed an industry survey of airframe manufacturers' needs for their next-generation aircraft, conducting approximately 440 interviews with aerospace industry engineers, designers and managers.

Alcoa has supplied aluminum for aviation applications since the Wright Brothers' first flight, and it developed the vast majority of all aerospace alloys in use today. The company broadened its aerospace product portfolio in recent years with the acquisition of Howmet (precision castings in superalloy, titanium and aluminum alloys), and of Huck Fasteners and Fairchild Fasteners -- which have been combined to create Alcoa Fastening Systems.

With the Alcoa 20-20 initiative's building-block approach, advanced metallic components can be first used and validated on smaller-sized structures, then expanded significantly by enlarging their size and broadening the application. This provides a lower risk approach, and allows aircraft manufacturers to make a phased transition to the new metallics.

One of the 20-20 components displayed for the first time at the Paris Air Show is a prototype fuselage skin using a new aluminum alloy and produced with advanced welding and forming techniques.

The fuselage skin was manufactured from Alcoa's 6013 alloy. Its reinforcing ribs -- called stringers -- also were produced from new 6000-series alloys, and they were attached using a laser welding process. The completed skin was given its curved shape through age/creep forming -- a novel process in which the skin is shaped under high temperature, then held in position for several hours.

The resulting prototype fuselage skin is lighter in weight, stronger, corrosion-resistant and has excellent damage tolerance characteristics. The 6000-series alloy allows the automated laser welding process to be used -- eliminating the need for many individual fasteners, which have to be installed in holes that are manually drilled during the production process.

Alcoa is the world's leading producer of primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum and alumina, and is active in all major aspects of the industry. Alcoa serves the aerospace, automotive, packaging, building and construction, commercial transportation and industrial markets, bringing design, engineering, production and other capabilities of Alcoa's businesses as a single solution to customers. In addition to aluminum products and components, Alcoa also markets consumer brands including Reynolds Wrap(R) aluminum foil, Alcoa(R) wheels, and Baco(R) household wraps. Among its other businesses are vinyl siding, closures, precision castings, and electrical distribution systems for cars and trucks. The company has 127,000 employees in 40 countries. For more information go to