A paint issue on an airplane? That is rarely ever heard of. But recently, Qatar Airways is facing a paint issue with their Airbus A350 fleet. A fault with fast deteriorating surface paint that caused the grounding of 16 of Qatar Airways’ Airbus SE A350 jets has also compromised lightning protection on the model’s fuselage and caused cracks in the composite structure, according to the airline.
“It is a problem with the paint that has led to us getting deterioration on the lightning protection of the fuselage and cracks appearing on the composite“, Al Baker said in an interview at an airline industry summit in Boston. The paint is not deteriorating on metal areas of the aircraft, and only where there is “aerodynamic stress,” he said. The 16 Airbus A350s afflicted by the problem were ordered to be grounded by the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority. They were the ones who gave the orders in this regard. EASA, on the other hand, did not feel the need to intervene at the time. Furthermore, it is also being said that Qatar might have to ground more planes from their fleet as well.
Airbus has issued new guidance to A350 operators on stripping and painting the aircraft, and it claims that no more inspections are necessary beyond routine maintenance. When Qatar Airways stripped one plane to repaint it ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which will be held in the Gulf state, the fault was uncovered. A spokesman said: „They should be very frank and come out very open and say they still don’t know what is the problem“. Al Baker said: „They cannot just presume what is the problem. Today there is no fix“.
One of the earliest Airbus A350s to be delivered is one of the oldest planes involved. A7-ALA is roughly seven years old and has the serial number 006 on it. The problem also affects newer airplanes. The A7-ANC is the newest grounded plane. The aircraft is a 3-year-old Airbus A350-1000. Other airlines have not reported any problems with their Airbus A350 aircraft.
Also being reported is that Qatar in the meanwhile have re-activated the Airbus A330 during the time their A350 remain grounded. The airline stated that it will not accept any further deliveries until Airbus resolves the issue, and that it has begun conducting more frequent inspections of its entire A350 fleet to closely monitor the ongoing condition because it expects standards to reflect its premium brand, and anything less is unacceptable.
A suspension in deliveries would be a major setback for Airbus, as Qatar Airways is the largest customer for the long-haul aircraft, having received fifty-three of the seventy-six that were ordered. The Gulf carrier was also the first customer for the A350’s -900 and -1000 variants.
- airlinergs.com (Cover Photo)