European aircraft manufacturer Airbus says airworthiness concerns over its A350 aircraft that has seen Qatar Airways forced to ground 16 of its planes by order of the country’s aviation regulator are unfounded. Airbus is still working to resolve a dispute with the airline which started as a spat over the quality of paintwork on the planes.
The planes have been grounded since August but both Airbus and the European air safety agency say there is no reason for the planes not to be flying. No other A350 operator has detected similar problems or decided to ground any of their planes.
Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker says Airbus still hasn’t got to the root cause of what’s causing the early deterioration of paintwork on some A350 aircraft. The airline has refused to take delivery of any more A350’s until the issue is resolved.
“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 on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association annual general meeting in Boston.
“We also need to make it very clear we will not take deliveries of any aircraft unless there is a fix for the problem they have that is acceptable to both our regulator and the airline,” Al Baker continued.
Present at the same event was Airbus chief executive Guilluame Faury who dismissed Al Baker’s concerns about the airworthiness of the plane. Faury said there was no reason for the planes to be grounded but that Airbus was continuing to work with Qatar Airways on an amicable resolution.
The issue was first detected when Qatar Airways stripped the paintwork off one of its A350’s so that it could be repainted with a special World Cup livery.
Both Airbus and the European Air Safety Agency has visited Doha and inspected the grounded aircraft. “It was demonstrated that there is no airworthiness impact on the fleet, allowing for continued operations,” concluded Airbus after its visit to Qatar.
EASA noted a “degraded paint condition” but said there were no concerns with the airworthiness of the aircraft.
Airbus says it has provided further guidance to airlines on how to strip and repaint their A350 aircraft and that no further intervention is required.
The grounding of the 16 A350 aircraft has been cited as one of the reasons for Qatar Airways bringing back into service five of its A380 superjumbos.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.