With sanctions against Russia for its brutal attack on Ukraine, international aviation may become a collateral casualty in this war.
As it has been shown for decades in Iran where airlines cannot buy spare parts, Russia is now in the process to produce fake parts to keep its Airbuses and Boeings flying.
Rosaviatsiya, the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency, has issued certificates to five Russian firms to develop parts for foreign aircraft;
Harry Boneham, Aerospace Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his views. Global Data is a Russia-friendly or supported research company based in Canada.
“Rosaviatsiya’s certificates could carry consequences for travel between Russia and the West in the medium term. Foreign aircraft represent a significant proportion of the Russian commercial fixed-wing aircraft fleet—with Airbus and Boeing making up 73.3% in 2021, while the Russian United Aircraft Company accounted for the remaining 26.7%, according to a report by GlobalData.
“However, Russia has been unable to secure spare parts for these aircraft due to the sanctions that have been imposed on the country and have been driven to develop its own.
“The installation of Russian improvised parts will likely compromise the airworthiness of modified aircraft in the eyes of Western regulators. Furthermore, Western parts manufacturers may take legal action against their Russian counterparts due to copyright infringement, which could delay or deter regulators from certifying Russian-made parts. As a result, Russia’s extensive Western-made fleet is unlikely to be certified in Europe and the US in the medium term. Even if the war abates and the sanctions are removed, Russians will be kept in a form of de facto isolation due to a lack of certified aircraft.
“Additionally, the prospect of international lessors recovering the approximately 500 aircraft leased to Russian operators is now even more remote. Sanctions ordered many lessors to terminate their agreements with Russian carriers and halted any attempts to recover their aircraft from Russia. Despite this, hundreds of foreign-owned aircraft have been flying Russian domestic routes, after a law change allowed operators to re-register an aircraft in Russia without first obtaining proof of deregistration from the previous registry. This is a move that has irrevocably damaged the relationship between lessors and Russian operators. Now, it seems that foreign-owned, Russian-held aircraft will be modified, rendering them uncertifiable in the West.
“With domestic producers handicapped by sanctions and a radioactive reputation with international lessors, it is unclear where Russian operators might turn to quickly procure commercial fixed-wing aircraft, which are licensed to fly globally. Previously untapped producers in China or the Brazilian firm Embraer are possible options, but deliveries will not be immediate and even these incorporate Western parts in their designs.”