Russia is increasingly struggling to maintain its aircraft.

Several Russian airlines are almost unable to maintain their aircraft due to Western sanctions against Russia.

At the end of May, the Russian commercial fleet counted 876 aircraft, according to data from consulting firm Ascend by Cirium. Most of these aircraft come from the manufacturers Airbus or Boeing. However, both have stopped supplying spare parts to Russian airlines to comply with Western sanctions rules.

The problem for Moscow is that aircraft need constant maintenance, repairs or replacements, and that is now almost impossible. Because aircraft are complex devices, certain parts need to be replaced very regularly.

For example, an aircraft’s deck must be changed every 120 to 400 landings. However, Boeing stopped supplying tires to the Russian market on March 1, and Airbus followed suit a day later. “We have suspended the main activities in Moscow. We also suspend spare parts maintenance and technical support services for Russian airlines,” the company said in a statement at the time.

“These tires will wear out and they can not buy replacements,” said Max Kingsley Jones, consultant at Ascend by Cirium. the cable

Computer systems

Worn tires would only be the first sign of decay. The devices are also powered by complex computer systems that need to be updated regularly. The electric generator, which pumps compressed air through the cabin during flight and drives the ignition of the engine when the aircraft is first switched on, also requires a lot of maintenance.

Analysts expect that the leased aircraft in Russia will be cannibalized to keep others in the air. “As parts are limited, we expect aircraft stranded in Russia to be looted to keep the rest of the fleet operational,” said Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Aviation Safety Agency.

“Russia is a capable nation”

“Do not be fooled by the Russian capabilities in aerospace engineering. They are a very skilled nation, they have their own aerospace manufacturing industry and are very capable of servicing the aircraft they have,” said Kingsley Jones, consultant at Ascend by Cirium.

According to experts, there is a good chance that Russian manufacturers will start producing parts independently. “If the situation is not really resolved within the next two or three months, Russian planes could be put completely on the ground or forced to fly with unapproved parts,” Jones said.

In April and May, the Russian authorities further increased the number of companies that are allowed to perform maintenance on aircraft. In addition, it is planned to build a new factory in Kazan in 2023 to fill the gap. The plant will produce parts for different types of aircraft, which operate in their own country.

Aircraft are leased

Almost 70 percent of all Russian aircraft are leased. In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU has ordered airline lenders to cancel all contracts with Russian airlines. Together, they leased about 500 aircraft worth a total of almost 10 billion euros.

With the termination of the leases, the airlines had to return their flights to European landlords, such as the Irish AerCap. For example, landlords can take back their planes when the plane lands at airports outside Russia. However, due to the imposed flight bans, Russian airlines, including Aeroflot, are not allowed to land at these airports.

As a result, landlords now jointly risk losing up to 10 billion euros. “I fear we will witness the largest aircraft theft in the history of commercial civil aviation,” said Volodymyr Bilotkach of the Singapore Institute of Technology in late March.

Meanwhile, Chinese companies are ready to supply aircraft parts to Russian airlines, said Chinese Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui.

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