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Dead in the air. Why Russian civil aviation is beyond salvation

International sanctions have posed an unprecedented challenge to Russian civil aviation. As usual, the Kremlin drones on and on about import substitution, but in this case, it means rebuilding the industry from scratch. While it’s impossible to sufficiently expand the manufacturing of Soviet-era planes, new airliners are nowhere near even the certification stage. In the meantime, the nation is losing its pilots, and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) red-flags Russia for flight safety, placing it in the same category as the tiny kingdom of Bhutan. The only remaining option is to strip available planes for parts to repair other planes. With the low intensity of air travel, the situation appears manageable – but only for so long.

ALL CARDS
  • Instant sanctions and the theft of leased airplanes

  • Perpendicular import. Spare parts aren't coming

  • Cannibalization that must not be named

  • A not-so-superb jet. The story of a sovereign failure

  • Hopes for a semi-product. How Russia banked on the MC-21

  • The Soviet Union making a comeback. Old models back in the game

  • Too much lip service, too little specifics

  • No CPUs, no avionics

  • No nails and no control to speak of

  • Red-flagged by ICAO

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Russian civil aviation has found itself at the forefront of the sanctions war. For now, the situation appears to be under control, but it’s an illusion determined by a sharp decline in international flights, a sizable stock of spare parts, and problems in other sectors of the economy, which make it easier to ignore the pitfalls of the aviation industry in the short term.

However, there are factors suggesting the imminence of collapse, such as mass dismissals of pilots. According to Miroslav Boychuk, the president of a flight personnel trade union, as many as 1,000 employees lost their jobs, with the overall number of pilots in Russia barely exceeding 9,000. Th Sheremetyevo Flight Personnel Trade Union insists that airlines are downsizing no matter the costs. Thus, the low-cost airline Pobeda is rumored to plan the dismissal of 170 pilots while reducing its fleet to 30 planes. Even though airline representatives have denied such intentions, they failed to explain how they plan to address the inevitable decline in the number of flights.

Russia has 9,000 pilots, and 1,000 of them lost their jobs in the last six months

In any case, there was no preparing for the blow delivered by the sanctions because the entire development of airlines and manufacturing capacities, technological and business systems Russia had been building since the 1990s were reduced to naught overnight.

Instant sanctions and the theft of leased airplanes

Like everywhere else in the world, two brands bore the brunt of Russia’s air travel in the last couple of decades: the American-made Boeing and the European Airbus. Aeroflot, Russia's largest airline, abandoned Soviet Тu-154M planes long ago, completing the last such flight on December 31, 2009. The carrier had over 100 new Airbus and Boeing liners available on short notice at the time. By the estimates of Vitaly Savelyev, the then CEO of Aeroflot, modern planes enabled the company to hold a 30% share of Russia’s passenger transportation market. Transaero, the nation's second largest airline had 47 planes, of which only three were domestically manufactured Tu-214 liners. S7 Airlines, the second runner-up, operated 32 aircraft, all Boeing or Airbus.

The development of the short-haul liner Sukhoi Superjet 100 supported Russian aircraft engineering in numbers but, due to the large share of borrowed foreign tech, did nothing to address its overreliance on imports. In early 2022, Russian aircraft accounted for 18% of the fleet (excluding business jets and helicopters) of Russia's 20 largest carriers by the number of passengers. Another 39% were European planes, 36% were American, 4% Canadian, and the remaining 3% were Brazilian.

As practice has shown, anti-Russian sanctions can take months to develop and another half a year to enforce – which was the case with the partial oil embargo – but no one beat around the bush with civil aviation. As early as on February 26, the EU stripped Russian airlines of the right to use European planes. New supplies, maintenance of the already purchased liners, and aircraft insurance were no longer available. The restrictions also included the mandatory return of leased planes within a month – before March 28.

As the Cirium analytical agency calculated, Russia was leasing 55% of its aircraft fleet from international corporations. Out of 980 liners servicing passenger flights, 515 planes with an aggregate value of $10 billion belonged to foreign owners. Late in March, Savelyev confirmed these statistics in his new capacity as the Minister of Transport.

A week into the war, Boeing and Airbus suspended their cooperation with Russian airlines, including the supply of parts. Boeing also closed down its Moscow offices. Embraer followed suit on the following day, despite Brazil being a BRICS member and the lack of Brazilian sanctions against Russia. The last of the world’s major plane manufacturers to join the boycott was the Canadian company Bombardier.

Complying with the ultimatum of the collective West would have meant halting most of Russia’s air transportation, so Kremlin chose the path of nationalization. On March 14, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree authorizing the registration of rights to foreign planes leased to Russian airlines and the issuance of airworthiness certificates. Over 800 planes entered the register in the following week. Under international law, this qualifies as theft, so if any of these planes leave Russian airspace, they could be arrested and returned to the owner.

Perpendicular import. Spare parts aren't coming

The forced decision was transactional and did little to address the root causes, adding one more instead. Registering hundreds of foreign-owned planes in Russia meant cutting ties with international manufacturers, leasing and insurance companies in the foreseeable future. Even worse, nationalized liners will have to be maintained and repaired with parts Russia does not produce either.

Parallel import, which the industry had big hopes for, did not pan out from the start. While experts and officials referred to China as the most obvious supplier under such arrangements, China sent a clear message it was not going to jeopardize its relations with foreign partners. Thus, on March 10, Valery Kudinov, the head of the flight-worthiness maintenance directorate at the Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya), stated that Russia would have to look for parts elsewhere As it later turned out, China also demanded to use only Russian-manufactured planes for freight transportation, refusing to receive foreign liners in its airports. Obviously, this requirement was also dictated by sanctions, which China has no intention of violating. As Andrey Denisov, the Russian Ambassador to China who was subsequently dismissed, explained in September, the Chinese economy relies heavily on trade with the West and will not endanger these ties for Moscow's sake.

Negotiations on airplane part shipments with Turkey were unproductive, with Iran remaining the only country to agree to cooperate with Russia in this regard. In July, the parties signed a contract for the supply of Iranian aircraft equipment and the provision of repair and maintenance services. The Islamic Republic, which has lived under sanctions for decades, indeed has experience maintaining Western-made airliners without official service providers. However, it remains to be seen whether Iran's assistance will be of any use to Russia. The core of Iran's civil aviation fleet is made up of very old planes. An average liner of state-owned Iran Air is over 19 years old, with some Iranian planes manufactured over 30 years ago.

Iran remains the only country to agree to supply Russia with plane parts

Russia’s aircraft fleet is much younger and requires different maintenance competencies. Moreover, in 2021, over one-half of Iran's civil aircraft was reported non-airworthy due to shortages of parts. Expecting a country that has trouble finding parts for its own planes to offer adequate assistance to a partner whose air fleet is five times as big seems overly optimistic. Experts admit, however, that Iran could start procuring more components through its channels and resell the excess to Russia, but even so there won't be enough.

Eventually, the Russian Ministry of Transport prepared a draft directive the other day, authorizing the maintenance and repair of foreign-made airplanes with non-genuine spare parts manufactured “in line with the procedures of leading countries of the global aviation community”. Experts warn against the illusions of flight safety in this scenario.

Cannibalization that must not be named

Failing to organize the procurement of airplane parts in the same way that worked for cell phones, Russian authorities turned their collective mind elsewhere. The Ministry of Industry and Trade asked air carriers and service providers to submit data on technical specifications and quantities of required parts to explore the prospects of domestic manufacturing. The officials realized full well, however, that the Russian aircraft engineering industry does not have the competencies and has not even tried manufacturing maintenance expendables.

Marat Nigmatullin, Deputy CTO at the maintenance provider Tulpar Technic, explained that the latter circumstance will soon come to light. Thus, an airliner needs oil filter replacement after every 700 flight hours. Operators have a stock of filters, but their amount is finite. Meanwhile, the shipments have stopped, and launching domestic manufacturing will take two or three years. The certification alone must take at least a year; otherwise, the replacement would run a much higher risk of malfunctioning.

Copying more complex parts is an even bigger challenge, if at all possible, since the practice is not common worldwide. Differences in manufacturing procedures result in components that may look similar but have different characteristics, preventing their safe use in line with the stated properties. Even China hesitated to take this path in aviation, despite its immense success in borrowing foreign technologies. Thus, in 2020, Beijing purchased Russian D-30KP-2 turbofan engines for its military transport helicopter Xian Y-20 without trying to produce them domestically. Instead, China designed the fully original WS-20 engine.

There are indirect signs suggesting that Russian authorities banked on copying parts – at least this was the case in April, when the Ministry of Industry and Trade requested original parts – at least five pieces of each article – to carry out a 3D-scan, study their composition, and determine the material strength.

As early as in June, however, the then Vice Prime Minister Yury Borisov admitted that cannibalization was unavoidable. As he shared at St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, airliners will have to deal with the degradation of their fleet by stripping some of the aircraft for parts to repair other planes. In August, airlines requested the Ministry of Transport to legitimize the process and authorize carriers to trade parts with each other, so the legal solution is in the works. Notably, Vice Prime Minister Denis Manturov implored to avoid using the term “cannibalization” and called the process a common global practice.

Airlines had braced themselves for this scenario much earlier. In March, the CEO of low-cost airline Pobeda Andrey Yurikov announced a reduction of its fleet from 41 to 25 planes to ensure flight safety and cover the need for parts. In June, Azur Air revealed its plans to cut the number of planes in active operation to 12 (following an earlier reduction from 30 to 22 planes in the period from February to June). The carrier also cited the need to prolong the service life of its aircraft as the reason.

A not-so-superb jet. The story of a sovereign failure

The main mantra of state officials in charge of civil aviation after the shock has been reassurances that Russia is about to build hundreds of modern, fully homemade airliners. Thus, Denis Manturov declared at SPIEF that the industry is ready to produce 1,000 new aircraft before 2030, including 550 planes to replace Boeings and Airbuses. The head of the state-owned corporation Rostech Sergey Chemezov seconds him, claiming that 110 MC-21, Tu-214, and Il-114 planes will be flight-ready as early as in 2025.

The government has agreed to invest over $12.5 billion to implement the 2030 aviation industry development plan. The industry has been tasked with upping the share of domestic planes from the current 33% to 81%. Nevertheless, even the sponsors of the initiative admit its main pitfalls: possible delays in the manufacturing of liners and an earlier failure of foreign aircraft.

The approach looks sound at first sight, but there are nuances. The 33-percent share of domestic planes is already an unrealistic premise considering that the Sukhoi Superjet 100, the cream of the crop of Russia's aviation industry, is no less dependent on Western maintenance than its foreign-made counterparts, and as for its repair, even Iran's assistance will be useless.

The Sukhoi Superjet 100 is no less dependent on Western maintenance than the Boeing, and as for its repair, even Iran's assistance will be useless

The story of the SSJ-100 going global could be summarized in one word: failure. The carriers that adopted the Russian liner either went bankrupt (Armenian Armavia and Mexican Interjet) or abandoned it, returning all of the planes, like the Irish low-cost carrier CityJet.

All favorable conditions and discounts couldn’t make up for disastrous post-sales servicing. Planes frequently broke down, and replacement parts took months to come in. By average daily flight hours, which is an important performance indicator, the SSJ-100 lagged behind its competitors. For instance, in 2017, according to Russian airlines, Superjet had 3.3 flight hours a day, while a comparable model Embraer E170 had as many as six.

The root cause of its problems was the SaM146 engine assembled specifically for the project by PowerJet, a joint venture by Russian research and production center NPO Saturn and Safran (ex-Snecma) of France. France supplies the hot section of the engine (the core engine, control system, and transmissions) while Russia is in charge of the low-pressure section (the fan and the low-pressure turbine), general assembly, and installation. Interestingly, Safran has sufficient experience in engine manufacturing but had not encountered so many technical problems before embarking on a joint project with Russia. The actual service life without repairs turned out to be one-third of the stated value. The Russian party demanded that the issue be fixed, but Safran, upon seeing abysmal sales volumes, refused to invest any considerable amount in the liner improvement.

As a replacement for SaM146, Russia is designing the PD-8, an engine based on the already-certified PD-14. Its bench testing concluded in May 2022, to be followed by testing of individual components on autonomous stands. Manturov promised that the SSJ-100 aircraft with a PD-8 engine will pass certification in 2023. Furthermore, the head of Rostech Sergey Chemezov (Rostech oversees the project) announced that Russia will complete its import substitution effort for the SSJ-100 in 2024.

Even if their plan works out perfectly, the Superjet project will not receive a Russian engine for another 18 months. As for the engines of Superjets in operation, no one can repair them because Safran refused, as early as in March, to service engines, supply new ones, or even return those submitted for repairs. As the Minister of Transport Vitaly Savelyev admitted at the time, the government had no contingency plan for the possible failure of SaM146 engines. He also called the SSJ-100 “an airplane with limited commercial efficiency” and reiterated that the manufacturer had missed multiple supply deadlines. Despite having ordered 150 planes, Aeroflot had only received 76 by 2022. The remaining planes are yet to be manufactured.

Even if their plan works out perfectly, the Superjet project will not receive a Russian engine for another 18 months

SSJ-100 airplanes with a focus on localization are being designed under the brand name Sukhoi Superjet New by the same entity, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company (SCAC). By expert estimates, around 70% of SSJ components are foreign. The manufacturer looks to reduce this share to 3%, but the terms of reference contain only a vague description of the timeline and the parties’ responsibilities. The government had to make concessions because enterprises refused to commit to specific development deadlines. The Insider's sources in the market presume that the new SSJ won't see the light of day before 2025 – in the best-case scenario.

Hopes for a semi-product. How Russia banked on the MC-21

Against the backdrop of the SSJ's evidently failing advancement, the midrange MC-21 (21st-century mainline aircraft), which is an overhauled version of the Yak-42 with a capacity of 160-256 seats, became the main hope of Russia's aviation industry. Its development started over a decade ago, but the commissioning has been put off multiple times.

In 2012, Dmitry Rogozin, a vice prime minister at the time, announced the launch of its batch production in 2020. In August 2021, the General Director of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) Yury Slyusar promised the MC-21 would be used for regular flights in 2022. Finally, late in March 2022, Vice Prime Minister Yury Borisov reported postponing its launch for another year or two, justifying yet another delay by sanctions. As it was reported in June, the first МС-21 aircraft will not reach the customer until 2024.

When its design was in the works, the MC-21 was expected to be outfitted with the PW1431G engine by US manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, similarly to Airbus and Embraer liners. Once hit by sanctions that followed the annexation of Crimea, Russia decided to replace the American engine with the Russian PD-14, which was still in the pipeline. Yet MC-21 prototypes were equipped with American engines because Pratt & Whitney had delivered four sets.

Late in March, it became known that the manufacturer had suspended cooperation up to the point of refusing to deliver the engines Russia had paid for. Authorizing the flights of aircraft with PW1431G engines without the company's support is unsafe. By industry standards, the component is fairly new, and if installed on a new plane, may have a host of minor issues that the operator cannot resolve independently. As a result, new liners with American engines could be facing never-ending downtime within a month since their commissioning.

As for the MC-21 with Russian engines, it is still undergoing flight tests, with its certification scheduled for the end of 2023. However, even if it is a success, there is no telling if a 100-percent Russian engine will be fit for regular operation, considering that a joint project with one of the world’s leading engine manufacturers, Safran, ended in utmost failure.

The Soviet Union making a comeback. Old models back in the game

Preoccupied with ambitious projects with vague prospects of going global, Russian aviation authorities all but neglected the models developed in the late Soviet Union: primarily, the Tu-204 liners (and the Tu-214 variation with a higher gross weight and airload) and the Il-96. With the industry caught in a downward spiral, they are more and more often referred to as an airbag of sorts, but they can hardly live up to the role because that ship has sailed.

The Tu-204 was a good enough plane for its time, despite higher maintenance costs than those of Boeings and Airbuses. So once Russian airlines came into some money and could order foreign aircraft, they made a rational business decision. In 2018, Red Wings, the only remaining carrier to use the Tu-204 for commercial flights, abandoned the model. Its hourly fuel consumption exceeded that of the Airbus 321 by one liter, and the increased gross weight resulted in additional airport charges.

The core issue was that the production line was never modernized due to the lack of orders, and therefore, its output is limited for technological reasons. In 2008, a record ten planes were built, as compared to the yearly average of five or fewer. As a result, Rostech admits it will hardly be possible to build more than 70 new Tu-214 planes before 2030. Meanwhile, Roman Gusarov, Editor-in-Chief at Avia.Ru believes that even 70 aircraft will put the manufacturer under immense strain. Maxim Pyadushkin, the director of Aviatranspotniye Obozreniye journal, agrees. He pointed out that, with the current output of three or fewer planes a year, upping this number threefold would require procuring three times as many parts from each of the suppliers.

So Savelyev’s words about Tu-214 potentially becoming the standard for Aeroflot should be treated more as a sign of doubt in the success of the SSJ New and the MC-21. In theory, modern liners are much more profitable to operate, but if their operation is hampered by technical issues, the airline that can at least get its planes in the air will have the upper hand.

Similar reasoning could be made in favor of the Il-96. Another model developed in the 1980s, it lags considerably behind Western analogs and was never mass-produced. In over 30 years, Russia has barely built more than 30 such planes. The main achievement of the aircraft was making it to the Rossiya Special Flight Squadron, which transports Russia's dignitaries, including the head of state.

Late-Soviet planes lagged behind their Western analogs in every aspect

With a capacity of 300-435 seats, the plane has four engines, while the Boeing 777 and the Airbus 330 make do with only two. In the future, new variants will be equipped with more efficient PS-90AZ engines, with a further transition to two state-of-the-art PD-35 engines. However, the engine will have to be designed and built first, followed by a comprehensive modernization and redesign of the Il-96 wing structure. Such an endeavor will most certainly take years.

One could judge the success of any such modernization effort by drawing parallels with the Il-114-300, a Soviet project with a capacity of 64 seats that was resumed in 2015. Its prototype did not complete its first flight until December 2020. Chemezov assured that airlines would start getting the first such planes in 2023. However, as it turned out last May, the key decision-makers of the project had been removed for failing to observe the anticipated timeline.

Too much lip service, too little specifics

All talk about the inevitable success of Russian civil aviation concerns a remote future: 2030 or beyond. Naturally, making long-term forecasts in Russia has always been a challenge, considering that none of the optimistic scenarios for this century have worked out. Yury Borisov regards the situation as the ultimate import substitution opportunity but, as is often the case with ambitious plans, they do nothing but distract from real numbers.

If executed ideally, the aviation industry development program will provide airlines with 550 new planes (not counting light aviation). This is just over one-half of the current fleet, meaning that at least every other plane is expected to go on for eight years without maintenance by its manufacturers. Cannibalization will hardly extend service by quite as much, and as the former flight operations director of Vnukovo Airlines Yury Sytnik remarks, if a plane component is expected to last 5,000 flight hours, adding even a single hour could be outright dangerous.

Importantly, repairing SSJ 100 planes would take just as much cannibalization as Boeing or Airbus liners. For one, Russian enterprises cannot repair engines. A power unit is a technologically complex structure protected by multiple patents. After a certain period of use, it must be disassembled, scanned for scratches, cracks, and shrinking, refurbished by overlay welding, polished, and reassembled, with certain parts requiring mandatory replacement. Each task requires documentation, which the French company has obtained over the years of jet engine development and maintenance. Furthermore, Safran is responsible for the control unit, thermocouples, strain-gauge sensors, and many more elements Russia cannot replace domestically. Each replacement with a non-authorized component that may differ in terms of clearance requires comprehensive and, importantly, lengthy tests.

SSJ-100 planes will have to be stripped for parts along with Boeing and Airbus liners

The works are too complicated even in the case of much simpler engines. Thus, the Ural Works of Civil Aviation, which purchased a license for the production of the four-seat DA42 plane commissioned by the Ministry of Defense from Diamond Aircraft of Austria, went on to procure engines and commission their maintenance from the manufacturer. Their localization was not anticipated before 2024 and suggested purchasing the documentation from the manufacturer under an additional agreement.

Even a 50-percent reduction of the fleet looks like an optimistic scenario because Russian aviation seems to be banking on liners still pending certification. The process is expected to go without a hitch, and in two years, their batch production is anticipated – and should also begin without pause or any hiccups.

The scope of works to be performed as soon as possible could be gleaned from the sum the UAC has requested to complete the import substitution for the Sukhoi Superjet. The manufacturer intends to master the production process for 64 articles with input from 24 companies for $806 million. The corporation has assessed that 70% of components will require substitution; therefore, such is the current share of imported parts in the current liner variant. It should be noted, however, that the company committing to such ambitious targets has been failing to deliver the required volumes of SSJ-100 parts to Russian and foreign companies and has never met its production targets.

The SSJ-100 cockpit
The SSJ-100 cockpit

No CPUs, no avionics

The MC-21 aircraft, which was initially conceived as a much more localized project, is not without its pitfalls either. The primary concerns deal with avionics – the onboard electronic systems. As early as in 2015, Concern Radio-Electronic Technologies (KRET), a company within the state-owned Rostech corporation, was announced to take over import substitution for the project. The batch production and first shipments of the developed equipment were scheduled for 2016. However, in 2020, Russia still had to buy its avionics overseas: from Honeywell, Elbit Systems, and Thales. In March 2022, KRET was reported to finally enter the physical part of the project, but no commitments were made about the testing process or the authorization for the replacement of old systems. According to the experts we interviewed, it is realistic to expect the batch production of the first MC-21 liners with Russian avionics in 2026-2027.

However, the issue could lie even deeper. BVS-1-1, the Russian onboard computer used for MC-21, is outfitted with US-made Freescale CPUs. As a possible replacement, the manufacturer has listed a computer with the same processors as IMA BK (a computer for Su-57 and PAK FA military jets). However, the latter is based on SBIS K1888ТХ018, a 28-nanometer technology developed by RC Module. Russia is yet to master the independent production of such modern CPUs, which means a foreign supplier is still needed. Considering the military uses of this system, the US will most likely do all it can to block any opportunities for such a deal. As we have seen in the case of Baykal and Elbrus CPUs, Washington can be quite successful in this regard.

No nails and no control to speak of

Soon after Russia was hit by unprecedented sanctions and their implications came to light, the issues of import substitution became the talk of the town. The iconic response was the Federation Council speaker Valentina Matvienko’s indignation about Russia importing all sorts of things, up to and including nails. Senator Andrey Klishas, known for his contribution to Putin's Constitution amendments, supported her. “Apart from bravado-filled reports from industry agencies, we have nothing. Our officials can see it in consumer goods and many other sectors,” he summarized in mid-May.

Traditionally, these issues are explained by corruption, public servants’ laziness, and entrepreneurs’ greed, with enhanced control and more frequent inspections suggested as the possible remedy. In aviation, however, the challenges are more profound in nature and have more to do with technology. This conclusion is invited by the relatively small number of companies competing in the passenger transportation market worldwide.

Working in close cooperation with market leaders, Russia succeeded in creating a more or less decent plane, if lagging somewhat behind its competitors, but failed to address the task of its maintenance, trying to handle it on its own. The possibility of Russia making multiple breakthroughs despite the gaps in several technological chains is slim at best. The experience would be unprecedented for Russia, and frankly, for any other country in the world.

Thus, Japan's attempts to launch an independent project also appear to have failed. Almost two decades ago, the Japanese government funded a research program aimed at creating the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, a twinjet passenger plane. The concept was presented in 2007, with the first flight anticipated in 2011. In reality, the liner did not fly until 2015, and the manufacturer has been delaying the delivery of its first plane to the airline ever since. In 2020, the company downsized its development team by 95%. As of 2022, the project has been suspended because of numerous issues and the need for costly research.

In theory, China would be well-positioned to help Russia out with planes, with the C919, the largest liner to be designed and built by a Chinese company, ready for operation. The model has been certified, and its first shipments are anticipated before the end of the year. The CEO of the Airbus Group Guillaume Faury assumes that C919 could rival the European aircraft manufacturer further down the line but points out that China would have to pick up the manufacturing pace and prove the liner's reliability.

There is another important consideration. Most of the C919's crucial units and systems were designed and manufactured in Europe and the US or jointly with global leaders. Over the last six months, Beijing has shown more than once its unwillingness to pick a fight with the West to solve Russia's problems, so supplying C919 to Russia is almost out of the question. All the more so considering China's immense domestic market, which is a higher priority.

Red-flagged by ICAO

The world has passed its unanimous verdict on Russia's approach to aviation-related issues. Late in September, the International Civil Aviation Organization red-flagged Russia in its flight safety report, expressing its serious concern about the current situation. Of almost 200 countries to have passed the audit, only Russia and the tiny kingdom of Bhutan deserved the “award”. ICAO experts argue that Russian authorities have failed to establish adequate control over key safety aspects, which is why they lowered its planes’ airworthiness rate by one-fourth.

Their main preoccupation is the dual registration of Russia’s aircraft. Hundreds of liners registered with foreign states were unilaterally transferred to the Russian register. This move had drastic implications for flight safety. Moreover, the ICAO also takes stock of aircraft manufacturers’ refusal to cooperate with Russian airlines, which makes it impossible to maintain the same flight safety standards.

The decision could result in Russian airlines being banned from operating flights to many countries in the world, even though it is up to each individual country. Meanwhile, Moscow's response to the ICAO's actions has been more than predictable, with the Ministry of Transport revoking the invitation issued to ICAO Council president Salvatore Sciacchitano for the festivities on the 100th anniversary of Russia’s civil aviation. The ministry justified its decision by the organization becoming “politicized”.

As of the fall of 2022, Russia is addressing the issue of planes in the same manner as most other emerging challenges. Due to a sharp decrease in the number of international flights and closed-down airports in the south, the current fleet is sufficient and even excessive for domestic air travel, which is presented as a sign of sustainability. However, once faced with a shortage of planes, the authorities will have a choice to make: either admit their failure and cut the number of flights or compromise on safety requirements. The former would be a show of weakness; the latter harbors risks of frequent air crashes. Nevertheless, those who are truly to blame for the state in which Russian aviation finds itself in 2022 will hardly be named responsible for the accidents.






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