Flights to and from Russia are unsafe

Flights to and from Russia are unsafe

The Airbus A320-232 with tail number Yu-Aph made its maiden flight on 13 December 2005. Since then, the plane has traveled millions of kilometers, flying for Air Deccan, Kingfisher Airlines, Bingo Airways and Syphax Airlines , before being taken over by Air Serbia, the Serbian national airline, in 2014.

For eight years the Yu-Aph flew without problems, until - at 10:37 pm on May 25, 2022 - it was landed at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport. The plane had arrived from Belgrade and was due to take off again for an overnight return flight within an hour. However, the pilot had reported a problem with the aircraft's engine casing, which needed to be repaired. However, the supplier of the damaged component - Collins Aerospace, based in Charlotte, North Carolina - refused to solve the problem, citing the sanctions imposed on Russia for the invasion of Ukraine as a reason. The plane then got stuck (Collins Aerospace did not respond to a request for comment from UK).

It took six days for the problem to be resolved and the A320 to restart from Moscow in the direction of Belgrade. Air Serbia also did not answer questions about how the aircraft's engine casing was replaced or repaired, or who produced the part. Although the Airbus failure was eventually repaired, fears are growing internationally that planes flying to, from and around Russia could become a security risk, as sanctions on the country prevent their adequate maintenance. Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, said at a recent conference that he considered the situation "very dangerous".

The problem of spare parts At the end of May, Russia's commercial aircraft fleet numbered 876 aircraft, according to data provided by Ascend by Cirium, an aviation consultancy firm, against 968 at the end February. Most of these planes were made by Airbus or Boeing, but they stopped supplying spare parts to Russian airlines to comply with the sanctions. "They cannot receive any kind of parts from Boeing or Airbus - explains Bijan Vasigh, professor of economics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University -. The transfer of any part or technical expertise to Russia is prohibited". The problem is that airplanes need constant maintenance, repairs and replacements.

WiredLeaks, how to send us an anonymous report Airplanes are not simple objects, due to the amount of components that must be assembled to allow passengers to to fly. Due to the extremely risky nature of flying, some parts need to be replaced frequently. Anyone who has ever seen a plane land knows how complicated it is to get a heavy metal pipe to stop. Among the parts subjected to the greatest pressure in an airplane are the tires: every time the brakes are activated, the rubber wears out, with puffs of smoke that often come out of the wheels and abundant black trails left on the asphalt. Tires are changed every 120-400 landings. Domestic flights on short domestic routes can make up to four flights a day, which means that the wheels must be replaced once every one / three months. Boeing stopped supplying the Russian market on March 1, 113 days ago. "[The wheels, ed.] Will wear out - says Max Kingsley Jones, Ascend by Cirium consultant -. They can't get replacement tires, and this potentially represents a risk".

Tire wear is just the first sign of deterioration. Airplanes are powered by computer systems that require regular maintenance and in some cases are programmed to shut down after a set number of flight cycles or days to reset. Among the systems affected are the aircraft engines and auxiliary power units, the electricity generator that pumps compressed air into the cabin during flight and powers the engine ignition when the aircraft is first started. “Some of these parts have a limited life - explains Kingsley Jones -. They must be removed from the aircraft and replaced after a certain period of time, or a certain number of flights ”. Despite the stereotype that depicts old and dilapidated planes, the Russian fleet is comparable to that of much of the rest of the world. The average age of a plane operated by the country is 10.5 years, according to the Association of Tour Operators of Russia. Globally, the average is 10.3 years, according to data from the management consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

Unauthorized parties "Do not underestimate the capabilities of Russians in aeronautical engineering - continues Kingsley Jones - : they are a very capable nation; they have a national aircraft manufacturing industry and are capable of servicing their aircraft. " As they run out of stock of official spare parts, however, Russian airlines will be forced to resort to alternative measures. In April and May, the Russian authorities expanded the pool of companies authorized to maintain aircraft operating in the country, including companies that are not indicated by international standards. "I don't think these planes are all death traps - explains Kingsley Jones -, but that the whole thing has an unknown factor". Components of external companies, made by Russian manufacturers, could be used to replace damaged parts. Although it is also a widespread practice in the rest of the world, however, it is not approved by the leasing companies that supply most of the planes to the companies. the vacuum in the supply). "If the situation is not resolved in the next two or three months, Russian planes could remain on the ground or be forced to fly with unapproved or unauthorized components," Vasigh predicts.

According to Ascend by Cirium, the sanctions, coupled with the global economic slowdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, have significantly reduced Russian international air traffic. The planes engaged in international flights monitored by the company on 10 June were 179, up from 493 on 3 January 2020. The decline is largely due to the fact that about 70 per cent of the planes of Aeroflot - the main Russian airline - are leased by a company that has withdrawn its aircraft from the country, Vasigh said. This means that when they land in most European countries, the company's planes are confiscated. But while international travel has been blocked, domestic flights continue at a steady pace in Russia. Also on June 10, Ascend by Cirium identified 456 planes flying over the Russian national territory, 30 more than 2.5 years ago.

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Arrow While the planes continue to fly, however, spare parts do not arrive. "Russian operators will most likely have to cannibalize the other planes in their fleet," says Volodymyr Bilotkach, associate professor of air transport management at the Singapore Institute of Technology. This too, however, entails problems. While concerns are currently centering on planes currently in flight, it is not plausible that Russia will forever remain a marginalized state. Sooner or later, the sanctions will be lifted and the planes currently flying to Russia - many of which have been illegally seized by the state - will want to return to routes that do not include a stop in Russia. The use of parts from other aircraft, however, will make this passage more difficult.

“All these parts are very controlled - says Bilotkach -. Manufacturers know which spare part will be installed on a particular aircraft. They must be registered correctly ”. However, Russia is unlikely to be keeping the necessary documentation, "If an aircraft does not have proper maintenance records, its value drops to zero," adds Vasigh.

None of the experts consulted by UK he said at the moment it would be safe to get on a plane operating in Russia. Bilotkach, who is Ukrainian, compared the situation to that of Russian airlines operating internationally and significantly improving their safety standards after the collapse of the Soviet Union. "Just search Wikipedia - he says -. There is a separate page for plane crashes in the Soviet Union".

This article originally appeared on UK.

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