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Global Economy

Russian airlines slaughter planes

Experts had already suspected it – now there are concrete indications that Russian airlines such as the state-owned Aeroflot are dismantling aircraft to get parts. This was confirmed by four industry insiders from the Reuters news agency. They reported on a brand new Airbus A350 that stays on the ground and acts as a spare parts store. A Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet-100, which also contains a lot of Western technology, also serves this purpose, said a person familiar with the process.

Indeed, in June, the Kremlin recommended cannibalizing planes for spare parts so that foreign-built jets — primarily from Boeing and Airbus — could continue to operate until 2025. The government plan is to keep two out of three machines from abroad ready for use.

In particular, the newer aircraft generations such as the A320neo or the A350 from Airbus as well as the 737 MAX and the 787 from Boeing have to be constantly updated to the latest technical standards. 80 percent of the Aeroflot fleet consists of machines from the two western aircraft manufacturers.

Imports Achilles heel of the Russian economy

Since the sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries around six months ago, supplies of technology have dried up. Economists see the lack of imports from the West as an Achilles heel for the Russian economy. Urgently needed spare parts could at best be procured expensively via the gray market of third countries.

But that is difficult, especially with high-tech products such as aircraft parts. Companies from Asia and the Middle East must fear secondary sanctions from the West if they supply Airbus or Boeing parts to Russia. Each part is registered with a number and the end user must be reported to the manufacturer, an insider told Reuters. "If a Russian airline appears in the documents as the end customer, no one would agree to a delivery – neither China nor Dubai."

Great challenge for Russian aviation

According to experts from the West, even for the most experienced Russian engineers it will be a challenge to keep the jets airworthy if the sanctions remain in force for more than a year. The biggest challenge will be keeping the engines and electronics functional, said Oleg Panteleyev, head of the aviation think tank Aviaport. "It will be difficult to repair them."

According to more recent data from the Flightradar24 portal, 50 aircraft or 15 percent of Aeroflot machines have recently not taken off, especially since some machines are stranded abroad.

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