The legal dispute will take place in a London court next month, with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake for the airline and the planemaker.
Qatar Airways has revealed that the surface flaws on Airbus A350 jets can pose an ignition risk to fuel tanks. This claim further supports its contention that the jets are a safety threat.
It added that the paint layers on large parts of the damaged A350s have been so badly affected that “wind and pollutants such as salt or hydraulic fluids, can penetrate through the skin and damage the lighting protection of the aircraft,” which in turn raises alarming concerns over the wings as it carries the fuel tanks, Qatar Airways noted in documents disclosed on Tuesday, as reported by Bloomberg.
In late 2020, the Qatari airline discovered paint erosion on 21 aircrafts as well as deterioration in the anti-lightning protection on long-haul jets, which Airbus had insisted were not a risk hazard.
With both sides making compensation claims, Qatar Airways, has requested more than $600 million and grounded twenty two A350s to date. Airbus canceled two deliveries of the wide-body jets and a separate contract for its in-demand A321s. Those orders are now entangled in “separate legal proceedings,” the report added.
The sudden decision of the planemaker took the airline by surprise, saying that it is “a matter of considerable regret and frustration.”
Upon responding to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which has backed Airbus’s argument that the planes do not pose any safety concerns, the carrier said that the agency has not undertaken an “extensive analysis.”
In its filing, Qatar Airways cited an EASA safety assessment from April 2021, saying the lightning threat would cause danger if it were “co-incident with fuel tanks.” It said that since “damage can be seen on the wings, that means it is co-incident with the fuel tanks.”
As per Bloomberg’s report, Qatar Airways Chief Technical Officer Ali Al-Hilli said the current structure and manufacture of the A350 “is defective” and that he has investigated all of the airline’s grounded A350s.
The inspected damage includes “includes spider cracks, severe cracking on and around window frames, exposure of the lightning protection and of the underlying composite surface and damage to the lightning protection layer.”
In another witness statement, the airline took on Airbus’s abandonment of the separate order for 50 A321s deal and sued it over the cancellation. A judge is set to rule on that argument next week.
There are no other aircrafts available in the aviation market that can “match the economical, long-range aircraft’s ability to serve smaller markets such as Toulouse and Lyon in France, Bergen, Norway, or Bilbao, Spain, and the airline has now put those plans on hold,” the report said.
Any stalling on the A321, should the order be reinstated, would be due to Airbus’s own “inability” to catch up with demands, Qatar Airways said.
Qatar Airways has rejected the planemaker’s claims that the airline grounded the A350s for “commercial” purposes, because its business was “hit by the coronavirus epidemic.”
The Qatari carrier is now in full-capacity operation reaching “above pre-pandemic performance, it said, and has had to turn to alternatives including “wet leases.” Those leases are a temporary arrangement where a “lessor provides an aircraft along with crew, maintenance and insurance.”
To keep up with the demand, it also had to bring Airbus A380 superjumbos back into service. “These arrangements are costly and have led to complaints about service,” the airline said.
Despite the escalating tensions infusing the sky, Qatar Airways affirms that the relationship will “remain strong and continue despite these proceedings,” Krunoslav Krajacevic, a senior manager of production oversight and aircraft deliveries for Qatar Airways expressed.
Airbus A350-900 emergency landing
A Qatar Airways operated Airbus A350-900 airplane had to undergo an emergency landing last week after pilots received a smoke indication warning. The flight was heading to Doha from Delhi but had to be diverted to Pakistan.
It secured a safe landing about half an hour later. The carrier stopped on the runway, and passengers were safely evacuated and transported to the terminal.
Images circulating on social media showed “burnt items in a cargo container, with one video showing smoke coming out of the aircraft’s partially opened cargo door.”