Lockheed Martin Corp., www.lockheedmartin.com

Engineers at the Air Force Research Lab working with Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works have built and test flown a cargo plane that embodies the latest and greatest in composite manufacturing. The plane, the Advance Composite Cargo Aircraft (ACCA), is based on a Dornier 328J. The original plane’s airframe is made up of 3,000 parts and 30,000 fasteners, but the ACCA’s has only 300 parts and 4,000 fasteners. This makes it easier and quicker to assemble and maintain. Engineers were able to consolidate parts by using large composite structures cured and bonded in room-sized ovens.

The plane is currently going through a test-flight regime to validate its predicted structural performance.