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Sanctions: Russia begins Stripping Jetliners for Parts


CEM REPORT | Sanctions imposed on Russia has begun to bite the country’s aviation sector as airlines, including state-controlled Aeroflot (AFLT.MM), have started stripping jetliners to secure spare parts they can no longer buy abroad.

Reuters reported that the steps are in line with advice Russia’s government gave in June for airlines to use some aircraft as spare parts, especially the foreign-built planes to keep the remainder flying at least through 2025.

Russia airlines can no longer buy spear parts or undergo maintenance in the EU countries and US as sanctions imposed on the country after it invaded Ukraine in late February have cut them out of supply. Consequent of this, at least one Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100 and an Airbus A350 (almost brand new), both operated by Aeroflot, are currently grounded and being disassembled, one source familiar with the matter said.

Russian aviation industry is heavily dependent on the West to supply spare parts and keep technology updated especially for newer generations of jets such as A320neo, A350 and Boeing 737 MAX and 787 which have technology that has to be constantly updated.

According to Reuters, even the Russian-assembled Sukhoi Superjets are also heavily dependent on foreign parts. An engine has already been removed from one Superjet to allow another Superjet to continue flying.

The Russian government gave advice having envisaged “partial dismantling of a certain parts of the aircraft fleet”, which would keep two thirds of the foreign fleet operational by end-2025.

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However, this strategy faces two major challenges. The first will be keeping engines and sophisticated electronic equipment in working order, according Panteleev. The second challenge bothers on replacing the removed spare parts, without which fleets will speedily shrink leading to wild spread bankruptcy.

“Western manufacturers understand that almost all Superjets are being operated in Russia,” said Oleg Panteleev, head of the Aviaport aviation think-tank. “You can simply stop producing and shipping spare parts – and it will hurt.”

Sanction on Russia first impacted on passages’ traffic which kept a good percentage of fleets idle and grounded, which is why they could be stripped of parts in the first place.

Aeroflot, once among the world’s top airlines but now reliant on state support, experienced a 22% fall in traffic in the second quarter of this year from a year ago, the company’s data showed, after sanctions prevented it from flying to most Western destinations.

The airline has nearly 80% of its fleet consists of Boeings (BA.N) and Airbuses (AIR.PA) – it has 134 Boeings and 146 Airbuses, along with nearly 80 Russia-made Sukhoi Superjet-100 planes as of end last year, based on the latest data available.

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

Three out of seven Airbus A350s operated by Aeroflot, including one now being used for parts, did not take off for around three months, the Flightradar24 data shows.

While the sanctions formally cut off parts supply from the West, securing supplies from countries which have not imposed sanctions on Russia is unlikely to happen, as companies from Asia and the Middle East fear a risk of secondary sanctions against them by Western governments, the sources said.

“Each single part has its own (unique) number and if the documents will have a Russian airline as the final buyer, then no one would agree to supply, neither China nor Dubai,” the first source said, adding that all parts have to be made known to Boeing and Airbus before they are supplied to the end-user.

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