Dan Rather Makes Questionable Case Against Science Behind Boeing Dreamliner
By Aaron Rowe
September 19, 2007 | 7:39:52 PM
By taking a cheap shot at Boeing, Dan Rather may be headed for a comeback less graceful than Britney Spears' performance at the MTV Music Awards.
On the most recent edition of his new show, he reported on Tuesday that the new 787 Dreamliner aircraft may be unsafe. Since then, dozens of news agencies have jumped on the bandwagon. Most of them are reporting that the carbon fiber frame may not be as safe as aluminum. Few have bothered to question Rather's claims that the composite materials are brittle, more likely to shatter on impact, and prone to emit poisonous chemicals when ignited.
I haven't yet watched the segment, but I have read the full transcript [doc]. As a researcher trained materials engineering, I consider the written summaries that appeared in the news today to be very misleading.
While there is a lot of weight behind the argument that composite materials are not as well-studied as aircraft aluminum, the reasoning behind the flurry of recent articles may be faulty. First off, if a plane crashes, the composite frame will definitely not be the only source of toxic fumes. Second, high performance composites have been used in fighter aircraft and for years. Sports cars, race cars, and train cars made from composite materials have endured fantastic crashes. Claims that the impact toughness of carbon fiber is inadequate may be premature. More...