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Expensive legal dispute with Airbus: Qatar Airways shows damaged A350

Expensive legal dispute with Airbus
Qatar Airways shows damaged A350

The paint is off: Because Airbus machines of the type A350 show superficial damage, Qatar Airways is suing the Franco-German aircraft manufacturer. The fronts in the multi-billion dollar dispute have hardened. Journalists get an insight into how bad things are for the jets.

From a distance, the two Airbus machines in the illuminated hangar in the Qatari capital Doha look like all long-haul A350 aircraft. But if you take a closer look, you can hardly overlook the damage to the wings, fuselage and tail fins of the two aircraft. Journalists from the Reuters news agency had access to the two Airbus A350s, which together cost around $300 million and are at the center of a multi-billion dollar legal battle between state-owned airline Qatar Airways and the Franco-German aircraft manufacturer, on the sidelines of an industry conference in Doha.

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The regulator in Qatar grounded the planes after premature paint peeling revealed damage to a metal layer designed to protect the fuselage from lightning strikes. Whether this poses a security risk is debatable. The European supervisory authorities had declared the aircraft safe, but they are still in operation with other airlines. Since then, however, Qatar Airways has refused to accept the remaining 23 A350s that the previous Airbus major customer ordered.

The Reuters reporters see damage in some places, including a longer area on the top of the jet where the paint is blistering, crumbling or missing entirely. Elsewhere, including on the curved wingtips, the lightning protection fabric placed between the paintwork and the fuselage can be seen, partially corroded or missing, allowing the fuselage to be seen. In a few places on the fuselage, the carbon threads are frayed or have come off.

Dinner brings no rapprochement

Qatar Airways and Airbus declined to comment on the findings. Although the aircraft manufacturer has acknowledged quality defects in the A350, it does not see them as a safety risk. Qatar Airways is demanding more detailed analyses, one cannot say beforehand. According to Airbus, the paint chipping has to do with the carbon composite materials used in all modern aircraft to make them lighter.

Qatar Airways, on the other hand, had argued before a court in London, before which the dispute is being heard, that such problems did not occur with comparable Boeing 787 machines. Qatar Airways boss Akbar Al Baker and Airbus boss Guillaume Faury met at the industry summit in Doha this week, and they even sat next to each other at dinner. But they did not get closer to each other on the matter, said Al Baker at a press conference afterwards. “Personally, I get along well with everyone, but when it comes to an issue with my company, that’s a different matter. If we had an agreement, we wouldn’t wait for the process to start next year.” Faury was more diplomatic: “Progress has been made – in the sense that we are talking to each other,” he said.

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