Airbus and Qatar Airways have rescheduled a crucial meeting with European and Qatari civil aviation regulators, after a plans for an earlier gathering, intended for 11 January, fell apart following a disagreement over conditions for attendance.
Qatar Airways is immersed in a legal dispute with the airframer, over skin-paint deterioration on its Airbus A350 fleet which led the Qatari Civil Aviation Authority to ground several aircraft.
Central to the dispute is the authority’s reasoning for the grounding. Airbus is seeking clarification from the authority over its decision, claiming that the grounding is unjustified because the paint condition is not a safety issue. Qatar Airways is seeking a full root-cause analysis of the paint deterioration, to support a regulatory assessment of the aircraft’s airworthiness.
Both the Qatari Civil Aviation Authority and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency will participate in the meeting.
EASA has no evidence of a safety problem with the A350 and has not restricted operations with the type.
In a skeleton argument ahead of the latest case management conference, in London’s High Court on 19 January, Airbus says the meeting will take place on 25 January.
It believes the meeting is “back on track” and hopes for a “productive and constructive discussion”.
FlightGlobal understands that original plans for the 11 January meeting collapsed when EASA withdrew, amid increasingly-strict conditions being imposed on the number of attendees and freedom to record the session, with some criteria being changed even as some participants were en route.
The date for the meeting had already taken weeks to agree owing to the distraction of the World Cup football tournament in Doha and the Christmas holiday period.
Qatar Airways’ skeleton argument for the latest court hearing states that EASA and Airbus cancelled the gathering “at the last moment”, on the “ostensible basis” that the Qatari Civil Aviation Authority’s decision to limit attendance to one representative from each party was “unlikely to produce a useful meeting”.
The airline has alleged in previous court documents that Airbus and EASA have a cosy relationship and it suspects the two of having co-ordinated their withdrawal.
“Nothing demonstrates how hand in glove [EASA is] with [Airbus] more than how synchronised the withdrawal from the meeting was,” its skeleton argument states.
It describes as “bizarre” the suggestion by Airbus’s legal team that Qatar Airways should be blamed for the collapse of the meeting plan, insisting that Qatar Airways had imposed no pre-conditions.
But Airbus has previously argued that Qatar Airways and the Qatari Civil Aviation Authority are actually the entities with the close relationship.
The airframer is frustrated over the lack of detailed explanation from the authority regarding its decision to ground the A350s, and views the meeting as an opportunity to give a presentation and to understand clearly the regulator’s position.
“Airbus is keen to ensure that it has attendees with regulatory as well as technical expertise at the meeting, given that the purpose of the meeting is to discuss a pathway to lifting the [A350 grounding],” the airframer states.
The Qatari Civil Aviation Authority has consented to two attending representatives from each party.
Qatar Airways, however, remains sceptical. It says is seeking a judicial order to stop Airbus “imposing all manner of pre-conditions” for the meeting whose “sole” purpose is to convey information to the authority over suggested causes and remedies for the A350 skin-paint problem.
“Airbus seems to treat this meeting as part of the litigation instead of a pragmatic information sharing opportunity,” it adds.