Airstream’s Durable Duralumin

It might be hard to believe but even the construction of Airstream’s durable duralumin has a history. The idea of using this material in the construction of vehicles was born from the need to make planes lighter during the First World War. Two men, Anthony Fokker and Hugo Junkers were working on creating lighter and faster airplanes that could be flown in battle. Early attempts meet with failure but over time, they would revolutionize airplane construction. These construction improvements would later play a part in the design and building of the Airstream.

Their first attempt at airplane design was the J2 Junker. However, they used steel sheeting to construct the body and fuselage of the plane. The steel material was too heavy and weighed the plane down. When they returned to the drawing board, they knew they would have to find a lighter material that was just as durable as steel.

Next the duo experimented with the idea of using duralumin. At the time, this material was brand new and untested. Duralumin is an aluminum alloy known for its strength and durability. Their company planned to use it on the construction of the J3 Junker. However, the plans were canceled and this plane was not built.

In 1917, the company owned by Fokker and Junkers went into production with the J4 Junkers. This plane was made from a lot duralumin. This material was used on the plane’s fuselage, tube frame and the corrugated metal sheets were made from the material. However, this plane ran into design problems. Where the duralumin had been welded together, the material began to deteriorate making the plane unable to fly safely.

The duo had found the right material for their plane to be light enough and durable enough to fly, but they needed a way to reinforce the seams without the material deteriorating. They went back to the drawing board and came up with an idea to revolutionize airline construction. Instead of redeveloping the material, they created a special rivet and pneumatic tools to install the rivets. The rivets kept the duralumin from deteriorating at the seams, solving their design problem without adding weight to the plane. These rivets are known by anyone familiar with duralumin Airstream vehicles. It is hard to believe the design and construction of today’s modern RV can be contributed to create a lighter airplane to serve in battle.

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