Airlines Address Boeing Paint Peeling Issue

MONDAY, MARCH 18, 2024

Global airline Uzbekistan Airways recently released a report on the issue of paint peeling on composite parts of Boeing's B787 airplanes.

According to a release from the airline, Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, Air New Zealand and others have experienced a similar problem with this type of plane.

The issue of peeling paint is just one in a number of recent incidents involving the aircraft manufacturer, including a recent door blowout midflight, the sudden loss of altitude on another flight, concerns of part and material quality, and an investigation after a former employee turned whistleblower was found dead just days after going public with concerns over the company’s safety practices.

What's Happening

The airline explains that each air carrier regularly reports the peeling of the coating on their airplanes due to the impact of ultraviolet rays.

As a temporary measure to help restore the peeling paint, Boeing reportedly uses an additional top layer that blocks ultraviolet radiation. The "speed tape" layer is reportedly built to protect the paint from further peeling.

Uzbekistan Airways commented that the problem is from the Boeing 787-Dreamliner’s new materials that are relatively new to aviation, as the materials are about 80% composite.

Due to the ultraviolet radiation, and the flexibility of the wing in flight, the applied layers of paint reportedly cannot withstand these forces and peel off in large fragments.

According to an analysis by the manufacturer, this peeling is a cosmetic defect and does not affect the airworthiness and safety of the airplane.

Uzbekistan Airways reported that it is experiencing a similar problem with the Boeing 787 airplanes, where the temporary solution, as recommended by Boeing, was also the use of special adhesive tape "speed tape."

The release adds that Boeing is now working on a better procedure for applying coating to surfaces. According to preliminary data, the company could finalize all the necessary procedures within the year.

According to the results of the conducted negotiations, the manufacturer is willing to take on all expenses on repainting of aircraft surfaces and their flight to the contractor's base. Considering the above-mentioned, Uzbekistan Airways has reportedly planned for a phased repainting of three Boeing 787-Dreamliner aircrafts.

Similar 'Speed Tape' Issues

The same speed tape was reportedly used on a recent flight that nosedived, sparking concerns from passengers in regard to the tape’s reliability.

According to a report from the NZ Herald earlier this month, passengers and crew on a LATAM Airlines flight from Sydney, Australia, to Auckland International Airport in New Zealand, were thrown into the roof of the plane after a sudden loss of altitude.

The incident was reportedly caused by a technical problem relating to “strong movement” onboard the Chilean airline's flight LA800 from Sydney to Auckland, which prompted a major emergency service response to the airport.

A follow-up report form the Herald revealed new images of the incident, showing one of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner’s wings heavily covered in tape just days before the incident occurred.

The report from Thursday (March 14) explained that the aircraft quickly became involved in an international investigation after its nosedive of around 100 meters, causing injuries to about 50 people, with 12 needing hospital treatment.

Additionally, a woman who had flown on a LATAM aircraft provided a similar photo from a flight from Sydney to Auckland in late January. She said he noticed the same heavy tape on the wing during that flight.

“When I saw how old the plane was I was terrified. The wings were being held together by what looked like black masking tape. I’m certainly not surprised by this recent incident.”

A LATAM spokeswoman later stated that the tape in the latest image is the same speed tape used on Uzbekistan’s Boeings.

“The use of aeronautical tape is approved by regulators, aviation authorities and aircraft manufacturers, and is only used temporarily for paint loss on the aircraft wing, without affecting the operability of the aircraft. LATAM Airlines prioritizes safety above everything,” the spokeswoman said.

The report adds that in 2022, Boeing said that operators of its 787 Dreamliner jetliners had experienced paint peeling issues on wing and horizontal stabilizer surfaces from ultraviolet radiation exposure. Boeing’s interim fix involved repeated use of “speed tape” over affected areas.

‘‘Even though the use of speed tape has no effect on the safety of the airplane, the public could perceive an unsafe condition when seeing tape on the wing surfaces,’' Boeing said at the time.

A follow up report from Australia 7 News later explained that investigations had shown that the incident was likely caused by an issue with the electric seat mechanism in the cockpit, which may have pushed the pilot into the flight controls of the Boeing 787-9.

LATAM Airlines reportedly described the incident as a “technical event,” and there has been no report yet on the exact reason for the drop.

However, former Qantas pilot Richard de Crespigny appeared on the news channel to explain that the electric seat mechanism theory was entirely possible, with a similar incident occurring on a Royal Air Force A-330 flight.

“The pilot put his camera down next to the side stick, the seat moved forward, pushed the camera into the side stick and the aircraft bunted over,” de Crespigy said.

“It’s happened before. It’s important that people don’t have stuff lying around the cockpit that can interfere (with the controls). This is one of the thoughts of what happened, but there were also, I believe, power interruptions or there may have been weather.”

The former pilot added that it was important to wait until the final report was delivered, but said the cockpit did have movable seats, able to go forwards, up and back.

Previous Peeling Issues

In 2022, Boeing outlined paint peeling issues on its 787 Dreamliner jetliners, asking United States regulators to approve its plan for a potential fix.

In a petition for exemption to the Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing explained that the paint peeling occurred on the upper and lower surfaces of the wing and horizontal stabilizer due to exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

Prior to its request, Boeing would use speed tape over affected areas. According to reports, this short-term fix led some passengers to post photos online of 787 wings with tape and raise concerns.

Because of this, Boeing then requested that the FAA to approve its plan to incorporate a layer of UV-blocking black topcoat between the primer and the white topcoat, as well as increasing the total allowed exterior finish thickness.

The proposed fix would have reportedly affected fuel tank lighting protection and, since black color has an increased absorptivity of UV radiation relative to the existing paint scheme, impact fuel tank lightning ignition prevention.

Additionally, Boeing said that the “petition will address a fleet significant maintenance issue that is creating a public perception of an unsafe condition as well as creating the potential for significant airplane downtime” and that “paint peeling issue requires the operators to repaint the wing and horizontal stabilizer at a much higher frequency.”

Repainting for UV damage also reportedly required the removal of the UV damaged material by sanding, increasing the risk of collateral copper foil and CFRP damage and subsequent repair, further increasing the cost and downtime of the more frequent repainting.

In a statement to Reuters, the company said that it had asked the FAA to approve the proposed change to “eliminate the paint adhesion issue experienced on some 787s. We understand the importance of a pristine appearance for our products to both our customers and the flying public.”

Other design change requests included adding cap seals over the nuts of certain 787 wing skin fasteners because certain combinations could lead to ignition sources in the fuel tank.

Reports indicated that the exterior issue was similar to that of the carbon-composite jets in the ongoing Airbus and Qatar Airways dispute, with the surface “deteriorating” on Airbus’ A350 jets. However, both Airbus and Boeing said that the lightweight models are safe, with Airbus stating it’s a “harmless” problem with the way paint and carbon interact.

Boeing explained that its coating problems stem from UV light, while the upcoming Airbus-Qatar court case was to focus on conditions within the multi-layered exterior. Airbus declined to comment to Reuters on the 787 paint news.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Adhesion; aircraft; Asia Pacific; Aviation; Coating Application; Coating failure; Coating Materials; Coating/Film Thickness; Coatings; Coatings Technology; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); Health & Safety; Health and safety; Latin America; North America; Paint defects; Peeling; Program/Project Management; Protective Coatings; Safety; UV coatings; UV resistance; UV resistance; Z-Continents

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