In a series of aviation incidents, Russian airlines are facing the consequences of Western sanctions as safety issues and accidents become more prevalent. The most recent incident involved a Ural Airlines Airbus A320 crash-landing in a wheat field in Novosibirsk, Siberia, last September, highlighting the dire situation the country’s aviation industry is facing.
The stranded Airbus A320, grounded for six months, exemplifies the challenges Russian airlines are encountering. Unable to access spare parts or technical updates due to sanctions imposed after Vladimir Putin‘s invasion of Ukraine, Ural Airlines reportedly paid one million roubles (£8,700) to the farmer whose land now hosts the disabled aircraft.
A surge in aviation accidents has been noted since the sanctions limited the repair and maintenance of Western aircraft. In December, a S7 Airlines Boeing 737 had to make an emergency landing in Siberia due to engine issues, while a Rossiya Airlines Airbus plane experienced a similar incident in Mineralnye Vody on the same day.
State airline Aeroflot also grappled with landing gear and wing flap failures in one of its Boeing 777s.
Safety incidents on Russian planes more than doubled in 2022, reaching 37 cases, according to the Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre (JACDEC). However, the actual number could be higher, considering many unreported incidents and the use of cannibalised aircraft parts to maintain the fleet’s airworthiness.
The impact of Western sanctions on Russian aviation has stirred controversy in the country’s blogosphere, with blame placed on the restrictions.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) expressed serious concerns about the safety situation in Russian aviation, citing sub-standard practices such as the use of questionable parts.
Aviation analyst Andrei Menshenin explained that Russian airlines have sought alternative solutions, including enlisting help from non-sanctioning countries like Turkey. In this process, Russian airlines sell engines to Turkish counterparts for repairs using Western parts before bringing them back to Russia.
However, this workaround comes at a higher cost, making engine repairs up to three times more expensive than before the sanctions.
“If your engine repairs become three times more expensive then you are really struggling to make ends meet,” Menshenin told the Telegraph.
The financial strain on Russian airlines is exacerbated by restrictions preventing them from operating in the EU and navigating European airspace.
Longer flight routes, increased travel times, and the disappearance of certain revenue sources have led to the grounding of planes and a decline in the number of daily flights within Russia.