**Update: 05/01/20 @ 12:31 UTC – While we still wait for a statement from Qatar Airways, additional information has been received from Airbus, stating that irregularities on the surface coating were found. The issue is superficial/cosmetic. Additional details are included below.**
A four-year-old Qatar Airways A350-900 is reportedly flying back to Airbus facilities in Toulouse to be inspected after cracks were discovered during repainting. The aircraft hasn’t had a commercial flight for about two months, having been in Shannon (Ireland) since November 13th. According to sources, aircraft will make the journey from Ireland to France in the coming days.
The buzz on Twitter
The reports of the affected aircraft come via a message thread on Twitter – particularly after Oisín Tierney (@TierneyOisin) posted photos of the aircraft, registered as A7-ALL. The Shannon-based pilot and aviation photographer notes that the A350-900 will undergo inspection and work with Airbus in TLS in the coming days.
Some more impressions from today's roll-out of the stripped A350 prior to ferry to TLS. pic.twitter.com/CBaqI6562M
— Oisín Tierney (@TierneyOisin) January 3, 2021
Several others have added more detail to the picture, with user @EIAMD saying, “it was the first 350 to be stripped for a repaint and lots of issues were found on fuselage. A team of Airbus technical guys having been working on it. They found cracks in the composite body work, they didn’t want it left out in the open. To be ferried to Toulouse for repairs.”
Another user echoed this, saying that the repaint was halted due to a “technical issue” noted when the aircraft was stripped, with the cracks being found by scanners.
Tierney noted that there was a major issue with the stabilizer in particular.
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The official word on the situation
As for official sources commenting on this matter, Simple Flying has reached out to both Airbus and Qatar Airways. At the time of publication, Qatar Airways is preparing a formal statement, which Simple Flying will update this article with once released.
In the meantime, an airline spokesperson provided information contrary to that of at least one source, stating that a detailed inspection confirmed that there were no cracks in the fuselage of the aircraft. However, this preliminary information would still align with reports of an issue with the stabilizer.
An update to this article, an Airbus spokesperson tells Simple Flying the following:
“Whilst undergoing a repaint at Shannon, Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350-900 aircraft was observed to have some irregularities on the surface coating. The issue is superficial/cosmetic and only visible when the top coat of paint is stripped.”
The spokesperson adds that this is not a structural composite issue. In agreement with Qatar Airways, the aircraft will be flown to Toulouse for further inspection -as a precaution- and re-painting. It is emphasized that there is no safety concern with the aircraft.
The Airbus A350-900, registered as A7-ALL, has been with Qatar Airways for its entire 4.3 years of service life. The plane, a lease from an unidentified lessor, was delivered to Qatar in November 2016 and is configured to seat 36 passengers in business class and 247 in economy.
Before its journey for stripping and repainting in Shannon, the aircraft was flying quite regularly. With the exception of October 29th, data from FlightRadar24.com shows that the aircraft was flying every single day of October 2020. Its long and diverse list of destinations include:
- Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)
- Islamabad (Pakistan)
- Stockholm (Sweden)
- Jakarta (Indonesia)
- Manchester (England)
- Johannesburg (South Africa)
- Casablanca (Morocco)
- Frankfurt (Germany)
- Milan (Italy)
- Philadelphia (US)
Due to the conflicting reports, particularly the one concerning cracks in the fuselage, we are eagerly anticipating the formal statement from the airline. Check back on this article shortly for an update.
Do you think this is a one-off occurrence? Or could it be indicative of a more serious and systemic issue? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.