October 6, 2022

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Exclusive: Russia begins stripping planes of spare parts due to sanctions

Exclusive: Russia begins stripping planes of spare parts due to sanctions

  • This content was produced in Russia, where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian airlines, including state-controlled Aeroflot, (AFLT.MM)Four industry sources told Reuters that planes are being stripped to secure spare parts that they can no longer buy abroad due to Western sanctions.

The steps are in line with The Russian government gave advice in June For airlines to use some of the aircraft for parts to ensure that the remaining foreign-made aircraft will continue to fly until at least 2025.

Sanctions imposed on Russia after it sent troops to Ukraine in late February have prevented its airlines from acquiring parts or undergoing maintenance in the West.

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Aviation experts said Russian airlines are likely to start taking parts from their planes to keep them airworthy, but these are the first detailed examples.

A source familiar with the matter said that at least one Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100 and an Airbus A350, both operated by Aeroflot, have been grounded and dismantled.

The source declined to reveal his identity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The source said the Airbus A350 is brand new.

Most of the Russian aircraft fleet consists of Western passenger aircraft.

The source said the equipment was taken from two Boeing 737s and one Airbus A320 from Aeroflot, as the company needs more spare parts from those models for other Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s.

The Russian Transport Ministry and Aeroflot did not respond to requests for comment.

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‘A matter of time’

The assembled Russian Sukhoi Superjets rely heavily on foreign parts. The first source said an engine has already been removed from one of the Superjet planes to allow another Superjet to continue flying.

To be sure, the engines are switched frequently between aircraft and are usually supplied under separate contracts, industry experts said. It is not considered part of the main airframe.

A Western industry source said it was “only a matter of time” before the Russia-based jets are dismantled.

New generations of aircraft – the A320neo, A350, Boeing 737 MAX and 787 – have technologies that must be constantly updated.

Western sources said that within a year of the sanctions coming into force, it would be a “challenge” to keep modern aircraft in service even for Russia’s highly developed and efficient engineering base. Read more

The practice of removing parts to keep another plane flying is known as turning discarded planes into “Christmas trees.” Although relatively rare, it is often associated with financial difficulties and has never occurred on the same scale as the large-scale reshuffle expected in Russia in order to address the impact of sanctions.

Jet aircraft may be operated again provided the parts that have been withdrawn are returned, although this would not necessarily restore the traceability needed for aircraft to re-enter global markets.

Many parts have a limited life that must be registered.

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Nearly 80% of Aeroflot’s fleet is made up of Boeing aircraft (ban) and Airbuses (AIR.PA) It had 134 Boeings and 146 Airbuses, along with nearly 80 Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet-100 aircraft as of the end of last year, based on the latest available data.

According to Reuters calculations based on data from Flightradar24, about 50 Aeroflot aircraft – or 15% of its fleet, including those stranded by sanctions – have not taken off since late July.

Flightradar24 data shows that three of the seven Airbus A350s operated by Aeroflot, including one now used for parts, have not taken off for nearly three months.

A second industry source said that Russian tankers flying on fewer routes due to Western sanctions meant that unused planes were out of order and could be scrapped.

“Western manufacturers are aware that almost all Superjets are operating in Russia,” said Oleg Panteleev, head of the Aviaport Aviation Research Center. “You could simply stop producing and shipping parts — and it would hurt.”

dismantling

The plan for the development of the Russian aviation industry to 2030 estimated that Russia could face the biggest challenges with the A350 and the Bombardier Q series as they are being serviced abroad.

The advice of the Russian government provides for the “partial dismantling of certain parts of the aircraft fleet”, which will keep two-thirds of the foreign fleet in operation by the end of 2025.

The main challenge, Panteleev said, is keeping the engines and high-end electronic equipment in good condition.

“It will be difficult to fix,” he said.

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The company’s data showed that Aeroflot, which was once among the best airlines in the world but now relies on state support, saw a 22% drop in traffic in the second quarter of this year compared to last year, after sanctions prevented it from traveling to Most western destinations.

Securing supplies from countries that have not imposed sanctions on Russia is unlikely to help, the sources said, as companies from Asia and the Middle East fear the risk of secondary sanctions from Western governments.

“Each part has its own (unique) number, and if the documents will include a Russian airline as the final buyer, no one will approve the supply, neither China nor Dubai,” the first source said, adding that all parts should be known to Boeing and Airbus. before providing it to the end user.

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Reporting by Reuters. Editing by Josephine Mason, Matt Skovham and Jane Merriman

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.