A paint conflict has led to Airbus allegedly canceling all of Qatar’s current orders, in a continuing conflict.

In June, pictures were published of a brand new Qatar Airways Airbus A350, parked in a hanger in Doha. The pictures showed what looked like extensive paint damage. Cracking and peeling that exposed the copper mesh that underlies the paint. The mesh is important protection against lightning strikes.

According to Qatar Airways, the exposed mesh is a serious defect, compromising the aircraft’s lightning protection system.

According to Airbus, the issue is only cosmetic and nothing more. The European Aviation Safety Agency has taken the airline’s side in the matter.

Still, Qater Airways refused to take delivery of two completed A350s in that condition. In August 2021, they’d already grounded the rest of their 350 fleet over the same issue, and demanded a full root-cause investigation by Airbus into the trouble.

According to Airbus, Qatar declared they wanted to void their contract by refusing the delivery of the first two, which happened in February. According to Qatar, it was Airbus who canceled the order over the paint conflict, after Qatar had only said they would refuse delivery until Airbus provided their investigation, which the manufacturer claims they have done.

Airbus has also supposedly canceled Qatar Airways’ order for 50 A321neos, a wider bodied plane with an established reputation.

Other airlines have also noticed paint issues on their A350s. It appears to be a problem endemic to the line. No other airlines have linked the paint conflict to a safety threat, however.

“The attempt by this customer to misrepresent this specific topic as an airworthiness issue represents a threat to the international protocols on safety matters,” said Airbus in a December statement.

Qatar is suing Airbus in a London High Court for the canceled contract, seeking $618 million in damages for lost sales. Airbus has declared they would be open to a settlement.

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