We have looked repeatedly at peeling paint issues affecting the Airbus A350, but Boeing’s 787 has somewhat similar issues. But different.
The standoff between Airbus and Qatar Airways will be two years old next January. Qatar found that several of its aircraft had peeling paint and damage to an underlying layer of anti-lightning protection. This is a complicated issue, that has to do with the different thermal expansion properties of the composite structure, the paint, and the anti-lightning layer in between.
Airbus is dealing with this issue by redesigning the anti-lightning layer – for new production aircraft. But as it turns out, Boeing’s 787 also has peeling paint issues, of a somewhat different nature. Like the A350, the 787 has an all-composite fuselage and wing. However, the cause of the 787’s paint issues is different.
Boeing 787 – A Different Peeling Paint Issue
This time, the problem appears to be UV radiation that makes it through the paint and degrades the primer underneath. The areas on the 787 that suffer from peeling paint are its wing and horizontal stabilizer.
But this problem isn’t entirely new – we first saw mention of it just under a year ago. At the time, Boeing was keen to point out that it wasn’t the same problem as what Airbus was dealing with. We first heard of some Air New Zealand 787s having this issue. But Boeing is talking with multiple airlines about the matter.
The news now is that Boeing seeks FAA approval about a way to mitigate the peeling paint issue in affected 787 widebodies. The manufacturer wants to add an opaque, dark layer between the paint and the primer, as an ultraviolet barrier for the primer. This will add some weight, but likely not a significant amount.
Without this intermediate layer, peeling issues will force 787 operators to paint the wings of their jets more frequently. This creates substantial downtime and increases maintenance costs. It is also an image issue. Boeing states that it doesn’t want the flying public to see 787s with peeling paint or speed tape covering these areas.
This last point may well be a pre-emptive move, to show to airlines that Boeing is taking this issue seriously, avoiding further conflict. Arguably, the biggest difference Boeing’s 787 has with the A350, when it comes to troublesome paint, is the absence of a standoff with an airline customer. Qatar Airways has a sizeable 787 fleet.