Composite Bubbles Block 787 Test

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Boeing has confirmed published reports that it called off an FAA certification inspection of a 35-foot section of fuselage for the 787 after bubbles were discovered in the composite material. However, Boeing spokeswoman Yvonne Leach told The Associated Press the cancellation of the pivotal inspection will not delay deliveries of the mostly plastic airliner because it will build two fuselages at once to replace the bubbly one and then test them concurrently. The company has promised All Nippon Airlines its first 787 in mid-2008. Leach said the bubbles likely got in the resin via a faulty tool used in making up the piece. The bubbles, or voids, would weaken the composite structure and could eventually cause it to tear or crack. Boeing has invested heavily in the switch from aluminum to composite manufacturing and is predicting major efficiency gains with the 787 design.