This paper examines the progress in aircraft and aircraft engines from the standpoint of the role that better materials and processing has played. Such progress includes the relatively recent transformation of the aircraft industry from purely performance driven products to products that are driven by customer value. It is demonstrated that advances in materials and processing technology and understanding has enabled much of the progress that has been made since the inception of manned, heavier than air flight. The recent constraints of cost, as determined by customer value, have changed the way new materials are introduced and these trends appear to be the new paradigm for the aircraft and aircraft engine industry.
While the focus of this paper is aircraft and aircraft engines, the broader focus is on the role of materials in creating lightweight structures.