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DEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

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"I got lucky. I picked composites 28 years ago. This is a composite guy's dream."

Phil Lathrop, a composites expert at the Boeing Composites Manufacturing Center, stands in front of a massive autoclave. In this high-pressure oven, 60 feet long and 30 feet in diameter, the composite parts of the tailfin are baked to hardness. Lathrop leads a team that trouble-shoots the manufacturing process. He also plays bass guitar in a rock band and will perform Wednesday at the ceremonial rollout of the first 787 tailfin.