Qatar Airways CEO Says A350 Cracks Are Related To Issues With Paint

Qatar Airways has blamed the composite cracks being found on some of its Airbus A350 fleet on the aircraft’s surface paint, according to reports. The airline has grounded 16 of its 53 Airbus A350 aircraft on the instructions of the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority until a permanent fix has been made possible by Airbus.

Qatar Airways, Airbus A350, Degrading Paint
Qatar Airways has revealed that is A350 problems stem from degrading paint. Photo: Airbus

Qatar Airways was the launch customer of both the Airbus A350-900 and the Airbus A350-1000. However, Qatar Airways has been in a spat with Airbus for most of 2021, with no sign of the situation cooling down in the immediate future.

What’s the latest?

The Qatar Airways Airbus A350 situation has now been slowly heating up since January. It came to a head two months ago when the airline took the drastic step of grounding aircraft “to ensure the continued safety of all passengers”. However, beyond revealing that the decision was related to cracks found in the A350’s fuselage, both Qatar and Airbus have remained relatively tight-lipped on the situation.

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Today, while speaking to Bloomberg at the IATA AGM in Boston, Al Baker added a little more color to the situation. He told the publication that the issue was related to the paint that the aircraft had been delivered in. It was deteriorating on composite areas where the aircraft experienced aerodynamic stress, leading to cracks in the composite structure.

Qatar Airways, Airbus A350, Degrading Paint
According to Al Baker, paint is degrading on composite areas subjected to aerodynamic stress. Photo: Getty Images

What is Airbus’ take on the situation?

Interestingly, Bloomberg also spoke to Guillaume Faury, the CEO of Airbus, at the same event. He reportedly suggested that there is no reason for any aircraft to be grounded, adding that the manufacturer is trying to resolve the issue with Qatar Airways. On the topic, an Airbus spokesperson previously told Simple Flying,

“As a leading aircraft manufacturer we are always in talks / working with our customers. Those talks we keep confidential. We have no further comment on our customer’s operations.”

Qatar Airways, Airbus A350, Degrading Paint
Airbus’s CEO reportedly played down the issues. Photo: Airbus

Which regulators are taking action?

The Qatar Civil Aviation Authority was the party that decided the 16 Airbus A350s affected by the issue needed to be grounded. They were the ones who issued the instructions to that effect. However, at the time, EASA didn’t see a need to act on the issue.

It seems that this remains the case. Bloomberg reports that EASA has been out to Qatar to inspect the affected aircraft. The regulator reportedly acknowledged the paint degradation but couldn’t identify any issues that would affect the airworthiness of the aircraft in question.

Which aircraft are affected?

When Qatar Airways decided to ground these Airbus A350 aircraft two months ago, 13 jets were affected. Since then, the number of grounded A350s has increased to 16, according to data from ch-aviation.com.

Qatar Airways, Airbus A350, Degrading Paint
Both the -900 and -1000 are affected by the issue. Photo: Airbus

The oldest aircraft involved is one of the first Airbus A350s to be delivered. With the serial number 006, A7-ALA is now around seven years old. The issue is also affecting younger aircraft. A7-ANC is the youngest grounded aircraft. It is an Airbus A350-1000 with an age of 3.18 years. No other airlines have reported issues with their Airbus A350 aircraft.

What do you make of the Qatar Airways Airbus A350 grounding? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!

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