The Russian aircraft fleet is set on a course to crumble, but it won’t happen overnight

The nationalization and theft of the Russian civil aircraft fleet is a watershed moment.

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Release Date
March 24, 2022
The Russian aircraft fleet is set on a course to crumble, but it won’t happen overnight
We’re all going backwards.

With the March 14 signing by Russian President Vladimir Putin allowing Russian carriers to keep foreign aircraft for use on domestic flights, that nationalization amounts to theft of nearly 500 commercial aircraft that their operators did not own prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Related: The western airliner fleet inside Russia: An interactive data visualization

Russia’s transport minister, Vitaly Savelyev, said that the country is trying to find ways of legally circumventing the sanctions to hold on to its fleet, reportedly saying, “We are not losing hope, but we are not giving them back, because that would mean to leave oneself without aviation.”

The most far-reaching sanctions of the modern economic era have disconnected Russia and its civil aviation industry from much of the world. Its digital connection is severed, along with its access to parts, services, international markets and crucial airspace. What will come of the fleet that operates today inside of Russia? 

Related: Disconnecting Russia from aviation’s world order came gradually – then all at once

While some have predicted the collapse of the Russian civil aviation system within a matter of weeks without western infrastructure and components, such an accelerated time frame is unlikely. Yet, the fleet will begin to deteriorate — and along with it the safety of Russian operations.

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