The use of composites in aircraft construction can be dated to World War II aircraft when soft fiberglass insulation was used in B-29 fuselages. By the late 1950s, European high performance sailplane manufacturers were using fiberglass as primary structures. In 1965, the FAA type certified the first all-fiberglass aircraft in the normal category, a Swiss sailplane called a Diamant HBV. Four years later, the FAA certified a four-seat single-engine Windecker Eagle in the normal category. By 2005, over 35 percent of new aircraft were constructed of composite materials.
Composite is a broad term and can mean materials such as fiberglass, carbon fiber cloth, Kevlar© cloth, and mixtures of all of the above. Composite construction offers two advantages: extremely smooth skins and the ability to easily form complex curved or streamlined structures. [Figure 2-15]