The noose dropped by Boeing and Airbus is still being tightened around Russian civil aviation

While Russian military aviation now controls the skies of Ukraine, sanctions against commercial aviation continue. After Europe and Canada, it is the turn of the United States to step up its measures, in turn banning its airspace from companies from the Russian Federation. But the main blow may well come from the private sector: just like Airbus, in pursuance of European and American decisions, Boeing on March 1 announced the termination of all support for Russian companies.

The American aircraft manufacturer has suspended the supply of parts under an embargo imposed by the White House last week, as well as its maintenance and support activities for Russian companies. It also announced the termination of its main operations in Moscow.

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Boeing closes these Moscow centers

This includes a training campus equipped, among other things, for the training of 737 and 777 aircraft pilots, as well as two important centers: the Research and Development Center, the Boeing Technical Research Center and the Design Center, the Boeing Design Center. The first is dedicated to the research of new materials, prototyping or even aerodynamics, while the second aims to provide technical support to companies in the region with engineering services in cooperation with local partners. He also participated in the development of the 747-8 and 787 programs. The Boeing Design Center includes offices in the Russian capital as well as Kyiv. They have also been closed for the safety of local teams.

Under interrogation, Airbus confirmed, for its part, that it had also suspended the provision of services to support Russian companies, as well as stopped the supply of spare parts to the country.

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Maintenance, installed local capacities

In the context of traffic recovery, service cycles tend to be as long as possible, but some devices will stop in the coming months. Local players such as A-Technics or S7 Technic, subsidiaries of Aeroflot and S7 Airlines respectively, are capable of operations that can go as far as Check-C on most Western aircraft. This is also the case in third countries, such as China. This also applies to engines.

Likewise, the drop in traffic associated with shutting down connections to Europe and North America will allow Russian companies to optimize their maintenance as much as possible without overloading workshops. Finally, returning to service some aircraft that have so far been parked to deal with the traffic collapse could also allow Russian companies to regain some leeway.

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Recovery engineering

However, things can get more complicated in the event of an event (such as a hard landing) requiring engineering work. Therefore, operators will not be able to turn to manufacturers for inspection or repair solutions. In particular, it was the role of the Boeing design center.

If the situation continues, Russian industry may have to develop its own engineering and repair solutions under the auspices of the local government – the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC). This will require some serious reverse engineering work, but the Russian aviation industry is not starting from scratch. If this were to happen once, the respective aircraft, on the other hand, would be forced to operate exclusively on the internal network.

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Coming shortage of spare parts

The need for spare parts and consumables seems to be the main limiting factor, according to a maintenance specialist interviewed by La Tribune. The aviation sector works mainly with original parts in order to guarantee their quality and preserve the residual value of the aircraft (in particular, engines). These are also the parts that were the first to fall under US and European sanctions.

As this specialist explains, Russian companies have good stocks due to rather rigid customs policy, which does not allow just-in-time transactions. These stocks are placed either directly with the companies or their service subsidiaries, or with third party companies. If these are Russian companies, then they will not close the doors for airlines. When it comes to Western companies, things are likely to be more complicated. This will depend in particular on whether the parts have already been purchased by the operators, whether they are in the process of being dealt with (a priori canceled by the imposition of an embargo) or whether they are still the exclusive property of the repair company but located on Russian territory.

The problem arises, in particular, for Lufthansa Technik, which has a strong reputation in Russia and has stock and production facilities. A subsidiary of the Lufthansa group has announced the end of support for Russian companies, which is a blow given the multi-year contracts in place. But what about its reserves in place and their possible repatriation?

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cannibalism to survive

Russian companies may have several months or even six months ahead, even if it is difficult to accurately estimate their reserves. If the sanctions continue, the operators could also cannibalize some of their fleet to rebuild equipment. Then the engines will be the first to deal with the restoration of modules to recreate working machines.

The greatest pressure will be felt on the latest aircraft, such as the A320 NEO (a re-engined version of the A320) or the A350, which have less inventory and serviceability than other programs. Just like the possibilities of cannibalization. The Boeing 737 MAX may also have been affected, but it has not yet been “recertified” by the IAC.

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Security threat?

It remains to be seen whether this need for adaptation for Russian companies could compromise the security of their operations. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), in recent years they have significantly improved their performance in this area due to the adoption of international standards and the renewal of their fleet (in particular, by replacing Soviet-made aircraft with Airbuses and Boeings). but failed to fully bridge the gap with world standards.

In 2016, Russian carriers had one accident per 400,000 flights, while the global average is one accident per 620,000 flights.

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LONDON BANS AVIATION INSURANCE SERVICES

The British government announced on Thursday that it would bar Russian companies in the aviation and aerospace sectors from accessing British insurance and reinsurance services, further tightening the package of sanctions following the invasion of China. “Russian companies in the aviation or aerospace sectors will be prohibited from using British insurance or reinsurance services directly or indirectly,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement. London, one of the world’s leaders in the sector, “this measure will severely limit (their) access to the global insurance and reinsurance market,” he added.