EASA issues warning over lightning protection issues on 13 Airbus A350 jets

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The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued a preliminary warning over the potential safety risks of lightning protection that may have not been installed properly on a number of Airbus A350 wide-body aircraft. 

According to the proposed airworthiness directive (AD), Heavy Expanded Copper Foil (HECF), which are used to safely disperse lightning strikes when needed, might have been installed incorrectly on the wing covers of 13 Airbus A350-941 and A350-1014 aircraft.  

In the document, the European regulator insisted the operators of jets with the manufacturer serial numbers (MSN) 0124, 0211, 0224, 0237, 0251, 0385, 0407, 0421, 0044, 0060, 0061, 0292 and 0298, must carry out gradual inspections as well as any necessary repairs of the HECF. 

However, the European authority has not forced airlines to ground the jets in question.  

“It has been identified that, due to a production-quality issue, Heavy Expanded Copper Foil (HECF) patches may not have been installed at all required locations of the WLC and WUC,” the EASA AD reads. 

The authority explained that if the issue is not detected on time, then “combined with a pre-existing undetected incorrect installation of an adjacent fastener and associated nut-cap,” it could create “an ignition source for the fuel vapor inside the fuel tanks, which, in case of a lightning strike of high intensity in the area, could possibly result in ignition of the fuel-air mixture in the affected fuel tank and consequent loss of the airplane,” the AD reads. 

For this reason, the European plane manufacturer Airbus issued a Service Bulletin (S.B.), where the company provides instructions on inspection and associated repair work for particular jets.  

“The AD requires repair or one-time special detailed inspection (SDI) of the affected areas and, depending on findings, the accomplishment of applicable corrective action(s),” EASA insisted. 


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