MRO Europe: Airbus cautious about bonded structural repairs on A350

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Airbus wants to concentrate structural repair development for critical composite parts on the A350 to bolted repairs, as it views alternative bonded repairs as "too big a step" on primary load-bearing structures for the time being.

Frédéric Gaible, A350 structures engineer in the airframer's customer services engineering and maintenance division, says there will be "limited scope" for bonded repairs on the largely composite twinjet, as regulations do not allow for them "at this stage".

The focus will remain on repairs with bolt-on reinforcements, because the development of bonded repairs for critical parts in the outer fuselage and wing area, where in-service damage is likely to occur, would be "too big a step", he says.

Gaible made the comments during a discussion at the MRO Europe conference about the changing relationship between manufacturers and maintenance providers in regard to composite repairs.

Airbus views itself as the main source for structural repair development on its aircraft, while operators and MRO providers will implement the respective approved processes.

But MRO companies are calling for greater sharing of technical data to be able to develop their own repairs. James Kornberg, general manager for customer support, products and business development at Air France Industries' aerostructures unit, says it frequently discovers damage on aircraft "which the OEMs didn't know about".

He believes operational experience with the aircraft gives MRO providers an advantage over the airframers. While repairs on new-generation aircraft are becoming more difficult, competition between OEMs and MRO providers must continue, he says.

Arne Lewis, associate technical fellow for Boeing's 787 service engineering division, denies MRO providers are under threat from the OEMs. However, he warns that intellectual property will not be as freely available for new aircraft as on legacy models.