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EASA issues warning over Airbus A350 lightning protection flaw

written by Isabella Richards | December 7, 2021

Airbus’ A350-1000, shortly after an ATTOL vision-based take-off. (Airbus)

A safety warning has been issued to Airbus over an A350 flaw, claiming that the lightning protection on 13 of the aircraft have not been installed properly.

The proposal to issue an airworthiness directive from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) comes as numerous airlines have reported similar issues on the same aircraft since 2016, revealed in a private messaging board last week.

Now, Delta Air Lines has joined the slew of carriers to report cosmetic defects industry sources say, according to Reuters.

The proposal detected the incorrectly installed “heavy expanded copper foil” patches – which are used to protect an aircraft from lightning – on the aircraft could create an “ignition source for the fuel vapour inside the fuel tanks”.

“In case of a lightning strike of high intensity in the area, [it] could possibly result in ignition of the fuel-air mixture in the affected fuel tank and consequent loss of the aeroplane,” the EASA said.

It comes a week after Airbus spokesperson Stefan Schaffrath told Bloomberg the planemaker is considering changing to a more flexible material called perforated copper foil.

“Some dimensions of the issue are still being investigated,” Schaffrath said. “We’re also addressing the root causes as part of continuous improvement so we will install solutions going forward.”


In 2019, Finnair posted pictures on the messaging board also showing there was some missing mesh of its lightning protection on its aircraft, only a few years after reporting other cosmetic defects in 2016.

Airbus and Finnair declined to comment, but Airbus officials said that problem was likely an older issue which has since been resolved.

The proposed safety directive has not signaled the jets will be grounded, but Airbus will be required to undergo further inspection and repair.

An Airbus spokesperson said it is a “normal part of the continued airworthiness process”.

But this is the surface of a broader issue of the widebody jets, following revelations last week that other companies have reported similar issues, after it was seemingly an isolated issue with Qatar.

In August, Qatar’s regulator forced the carrier to ground a number of its A350 jets as it waited for Airbus to fix the issue, which caused the airline to return its A380s to the sky after pledging it would never fly them again.

US airline Delta declined to comment on specifics but said this is the first time the carrier has seen this type of paint issue and is already in discussions with Airbus.

“We have not yet experienced any significant paint issues on our A350 aircraft.”

The other airlines who have reported similar defects include Finnair – Europe’s first A350 operator – Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Lufthansa and Air France.

Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific also reported similar problems in 2016 and a year later said it continued to “experience paint peeling problems on multiple aircraft”. In one of the posts submitted, paint problems arose only two weeks after delivery.


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