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Proekt: Aeroflot greenlights malfunctioning airplanes for takeoff

According to a report by Proekt, due to a shortage of parts Aeroflot has instructed its staff to reduce the frequency of recording cabin malfunctions, leading to the possibility of planes departing with significant breakdowns. The report is based on documents and insider sources within the company.

In March 2022, Aeroflot's cabin attendants received a letter from the company's corresponding department. The letter contained an instruction stating that they should enter data regarding technical failures and malfunctions of the cabin equipment into the Cabin Log Book (CLB) only after obtaining approval from the pilot in command.

According to sources cited by the publication, prior to the commencement of the war and sanctions, cabin attendants would record all faults in the Cabin Log Book (CLB) and inform the cabin commander. One of the sources mentioned, “They documented everything, otherwise they risked getting reprimands during surprise inspections.”

“When the flight issues and disruptions in parts supply arose, an implicit directive was issued. It involved sending a mass email to all senior flight attendants, instructing them not to record any breakdowns encountered during flights in the Cabin Log Book (CLB), but rather to verbally communicate the details of the issues and their location. Consequently, in cases where spare parts were unavailable and in order to avoid grounding the plane, the aircraft was allowed to take off with a malfunction, even if it was quite significant,” a senior flight attendant who has worked at Aeroflot for over 10 years explained to Proekt.

“The technicians are quite smart. I would approach them and say: 'Look, this part is broken, I haven't reported anything.” And they'd often respond, 'Well, you did right. Anyway, this part is unavailable,” the flight attendant said.

“The main purpose of such a directive is to prevent aircraft from being grounded due to a malfunction that, on paper, should prevent the aircraft from being operated until it is fixed,” a former Aeroflot employee told the publication. “Before the war this rule was strictly followed. Every little malfunction was reported and fixed right away.”

The cabin equipment includes various components such as oxygen tanks, which are crucial in cases of depressurization or onboard medical emergencies. According to a flight attendant from Aeroflot who spoke to the publication, in 2022, Aeroflot's plane flew from the UAE to Moscow without a complete set of oxygen cylinders on board. This occurred because the aircraft commander decided against reporting the lack of cylinders and the resulting flight delay in the Cabin Log Book (CLB). The issue was only reported in the flight log upon the plane's arrival at Sheremetyevo. “Back in the day those responsible for the lack of emergency equipment were fired immediately,” Proekt's source said.

The flushing system in aircraft toilets relies on a device known as a “vacuum generator,” which facilitates the operation of the air-based waste disposal system. As per the manufacturer's guidelines, flying with a faulty generator is permissible for a maximum of 10 days. However, the Russian airline's plane continued to fly with a malfunctioning generator for approximately 6 months. Consequently, the toilets onboard only functioned when the aircraft reached a cruising altitude above 5 km, while below and on the ground, the waste remained unflushed. According to Proekt's source, “the delay in obtaining the replacement unit was due to logistical challenges resulting from sanctions. As a result, the aircraft operated illegally with a malfunctioning system for a period of around 5-6 months.”

The publication highlights that “while this problem may initially appear as an unfortunate curiosity, in the highly regulated field of civil aviation, even minor issues often result in nightmarish consequences.”

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