Aluminum vs Steel for Manufacturing Airplanes: Which Is Best?

At any given time, there are roughly 10,000 airplanes in the skies. Some of these airplanes are small, whereas others are larger with the ability to accommodate more passengers and crew members. Regardless, the majority of airplanes now consist primarily of aluminum. You’ll still find other materials used in their construction, but most airplanes are made of primarily of aluminum. As a result, you might be wondering why aerospace manufacturing companies use aluminum rather than steel. Well, aluminum offers several key advantages when used in an airplane’s construction.


Aluminum weighs less than steel, making it a more desirable material for airplanes. According to The Aluminum Association, aluminum is approximately one-third the weight of steel. For aerospace manufacturing companies, the lightweight properties of aluminum allow for the construction of lighter, more efficient airplanes. If an aerospace manufacturing company used steel, its airplanes would be heavier and, therefore, require more fuel to stay in the air.

Corrosion Resistance

In addition to being lightweight, aluminum also exhibits natural anti-corrosion properties. Contrary to popular belief, steel — including stainless steel — isn’t immune to corrosion. It can still corrode when exposed to moisture or oxygen. Aluminum, however, is better protected against corrosion than steel. In fact, aluminum is completely protected against rusting. Only iron and iron alloys can rust. Since aluminum doesn’t contain iron, it can’t rust. Aluminum can, however, corrode if it’s exposed to moisture or oxygen. But it’s still better protected against corrosion than steel, which is one more reason aerospace manufacturing companies use in the construction of their airplanes.


Of course, cost is another factor that influences the materials used in an airplane’s construction. You might be surprised to learn that aluminum typically costs more than steel. While countless factors affect the cost of metals and alloys, aluminum is notable more expensive than steel. Nonetheless, aerospace manufacturing companies recognize the value of aluminum, so most are willing to spend the extra money on it.


While aluminum is lightweight, resistant to corrosion and inexpensive, it lacks the strength of its steel counterpart. Research shows steel is over twice as dense as aluminum. With a higher density, it’s less susceptible to deformation, as well as other forms of structural damage, than aluminum. Don’t let that you fool you into thinking aluminum is a poor choice of material for airplanes. Airplanes generally don’t need the strength of steel. Rather, aluminum is strong enough to protect airplanes from physical damage.