DALLAS – As the Ukraine conflict rages on, the Russian aviation industry is entering a new era. Numerous routes have been canceled, and many aircraft have been hurriedly reregistered in an attempt to avoid regulatory hurdles.
Prior to the outbreak of the war, it was common for Russian airlines to register aircraft manufactured outside of Russia overseas. It was a long-standing arrangement that avoided higher import taxes. Bermuda was one such country that was frequently used as a registration state, but this arrangement was terminated as soon as the conflict began.
As a result, as foreign regulators relinquished oversight of maintenance standards, scores of Russian aircraft were grounded. However, this has not prevented Russian airlines from flying, as aircraft have been reregistered under the country prefix RA, albeit illegally in the eyes of many.
Locally Made Spares
The current round of sanctions includes aircraft spare parts, leaving Russia with a dilemma: how to keep its Western-built fleets flying? Given the decrease in flight volume, it appears that many airlines are planning to canalize serviceable aircraft to keep others flying, as reported by Reuters. According to the same report, an Aeroflot Airbus 350 is already being disassembled for spares.
The news outlet also highlighted a Russian government directive that apparently urged airlines to dismantle surplus airframes. Even some Russian-made aircraft are vulnerable since the Sukhoi Superjet 100 has some components that were manufactured outside of Russia.
A far more concerning plot twist will occur when Russia runs out of spare parts cherry-picked from other aircraft and is forced to reverse-engineer spare components. These would most likely be created and distributed with no manufacturer approval, as well as an opaque level of traceability and quality assurance.
While Russia is likely to have the capability to manufacture such spare parts, it will be interesting to see if it turns to one of the few remaining allies for assistance with component manufacturing.
Featured Image: Aeroflot Airbus 350-900 VQ-BFY (Now RA-73157). Photo: Ervin Eslami/Airways