Russia cuts up Western planes to hoard spare parts

Aeroflot A350

Some modern aircraft are too sophisticated to be repairable with other parts. Russia thus begins to sacrifice planes to be able to keep other machines alive. Ultimately, Western sanctions will hurt the Russian aviation.

Sanctions are beginning to show their effects. With the war in Ukraine, the West banned its aircraft manufacturers from delivering new planes, as well as spare parts, to Russia. Neither are they allowed to repair planes flying for Russian companies. Many analysts then expected Russia to start sacrificing planes for spare parts. It is now official: Reuters reports the first examples of “cannibalised” planes.

A source told Reuters that a brand new Airbus A350 operated by Aeroflot was being dismantled to salvage parts. Several Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s are also reportedly being used for their parts. The majority of planes operated in Russia are Western machines. For Aeroflot, for example, 80% of the fleet are Boeings (134 planes) and Airbuses (146), according to the latest data available.

Even a Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100 flying with Aeroflot would be dismembered because the aircraft relies heavily on parts from abroad.

Replacing parts may not be sufficient to keep an aircraft airworthy. Newer planes, such as the Airbus A320neo and A350, and the Boeing 737 MAX and 787, feature more sophisticated technologies, which constantly need to be updated. With the sanctions, these updates are no longer accessible.

Ultimately, these sanctions will hurt Russian aviation. Until 2025, the government expects Aeroflot’s fleet to lose a third of its size.

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