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While the new 787 Dreamliner is touted as a "composite" airplane, Boeing has been using carbon fiber composites in its jets for decades.
BOEING PHOTO BY BERNARD CHOI
The tail section of the Boeing 777, for example, is made up of the tough, lightweight materials. Other Boeing models like the 747 and 767 also incorporate advanced composites.
"We've been doing it for 20 to 30 years, we know what to look for," says Janice Simon, a composites specialist.
Simon and her colleagues at the Boeing Fabrication plant in Frederickson, Wash., build up composite panels that eventually make up sections of the 777 and 787.
"You’re looking for debris and making sure there are no flaws in the material and no broken fibers," Simon said.
"Our tolerances are very tight. There is little room for mistakes," said Kirby Kilmurray, a fellow composites specialist who operates a machine to lay down carbon fibers in a choreographed pattern.
As you can see in the video above, this knowledge and experience came in handy when a nearby technical college set up a course on composites.