Monday, September 27, 2021

Qatar Airways grounds 13 Airbus A350s as fuselage degrading

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Qatar Airways said Thursday it grounded 13 Airbus A350s over what it described as fuselages “degrading at an accelerated rate” in the long-range aircraft, further escalating a monthslong dispute with the European airplane maker over the issue.

While Airbus declined to specifically discuss the announcement, Qatar Airways’ announcement to journalists raised questions about the A350s’ carbon composite fuselage, designed to make the twin-aisle aircraft lighter and cheaper to operate by burning less jet fuel. Qatar Airways also is one of the world’s top operators of the aircraft.

In its statement, Qatar Airways said it had been monitoring the degradation beneath the paint on the fuselage of the aircraft for some time. It described the issue as a “significant condition,” without elaborating.

“Following the explicit written instruction of its regulator, 13 aircraft have now been grounded, effectively removing them from service until such time as the root cause can be established and a satisfactory solution made available to permanently correct the underlying condition,” the airline said in its statement.

Qatar Airways has a fleet of 53 Airbus A350s in both its 1000 and 900 series. The airline has another on order with the Toulouse, France-based airplane manufacturer, making its total order of 76 aircraft — the most of any airline worldwide.

Airbus declined to specifically discuss Qatar Airways’ grounding.

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

Currently, Singapore Airlines is the world’s top operator of the A350, with 56 now in its fleet. The airline did not respond to a request for comment. In America, Delta Air Lines has 15 in its fleet. The Atlanta-based carrier did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

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