Monday, March 14, 2022

Western Sanctions Will ‘Ground’ 75 Percent of Russian Civil Aviation, Lukashevich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 11 – The sanctions the West has imposed on Russia for Putin’s war in Ukraine will ground approximately 75 percent of Russian civil aviation aircraft and make it impossible for Russia to find substitutes or build any domestically produced plans to get around the restrictions, Vadim Lukashevich says.

            A former engineer at the Sukhoy aircraft factory, the independent aviation expert says that of the 980 passenger in service in Russia’s domestic aviation park, 777 are foreign planes that Russian airlines have leased. And for various reasons, most of those aren’t going to be flying anytime soon (

            The EU at the end of February banned the export of airplanes and helicopters to Russia and called for the cancellation of existing licensing contracts and return of planes in 30 days. Airbus cut Russia off from technical documentation without which repairs are impossible. And the US Boeing company in early March stopped supplying Russia with spare parts.

            What that means, Lukashevich says, is that very soon, no one can safely fly one of these planes. Moreover, the West has made clear that it will extend its sanctions regime to any country that helps Russia to evade sanctions, thus limiting the possibility that China or India would risk the consequences for their own flights.

            In addition, there is the risk that any plane under Russian license that landed in a foreign country would see that plane confiscated. The EU and other Western countries have also closed their airspace to Western planes, all of which creates problems for Moscow as do restrictions on insurance arrangements which will be cancelled if planes are not maintained as required.

            Some Russian officials are boldly saying that Moscow can produce its own planes as a substitute. Perhaps over the long term. But doing so quickly is impossible: reopening production is prohibitively expensive, Russia can’t get the necessary avionics and other parts from abroad that it can’t easily produce, and the smaller planes it might build can’t reach across the country.

            People forget just how dependent Russian plane builders are on the West, Lukashevich says. Even in Soviet times when Moscow had far more resources, its supersonic passenger jet, the Tu-144, had all its dimensions in feet and inches rather than in meters because so much of it came from the West. The same dependence is true in most other planes as well.

            Even the much-hyped Superjet soon won’t be flying, not only because it can’t cover the long domestic routes in Russia but because there is no possibility now of it getting the spare parts that are required to keep in flying. Sanctions from 2014 have already made that plane 600 to 800 kilograms heavier than it would have been with Western composites.

            Lukashevich concludes by saying that very soon the only people who will be flying within Russia will be senior government officials and the military who have their own planes. Everyone else, he says, will be forced to rely on trains even for long distances. And he warns that “sanctions are forever: even if the battles stop, they won’t be lifted,” at least not immediately.

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