Russia’s civil aviation crisis gets closer to plane crashes — leaked documents

Russia’s aviation sector is becoming increasingly troublesome as a result of Western sanctions implemented in response to Putin’s war in Ukraine. Several Russian planes malfunctioned in the skies in just two days in early December.

New evidence suggests that Russia’s civil aviation sector is on the verge of collapse. According to reports from the country’s aviation authority, flights of Russian aircraft are getting dangerous due to a scarcity of spare parts and maintenance due to sanctions, i.e., Putin’s war.

Hacked internal documents show problems in Russia’s civil aviation

The Cyber Resistance group provided Channel 24 with hacked internal documents from the Federal Air Transport Agency’s Ural Interregional Territorial Directorate, enabling us to assess the situation of civil aviation in Russia.

According to a leaked report from the Urals MTU of Rosaviatsia’s Flight Safety Council:

“During the first nine months of 2023, civil aviation aircraft engaged in commercial air transportation within the territory of operation and under the supervision of the Urals MTU of Rosaviatsia experienced a total of 123 civil aviation events. During the first nine months of 2023, there were a total of 1 significant aviation incident, 34 aviation incidents, and 1 case of aircraft damage. In 2022, 67 aviation incidents occurred over the same time period. According to statistics, aircraft failures account for 49% of all aviation incidents.”

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Following the launch of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Russian air transportation market began to deteriorate swiftly. Moscow did not hesitate to seize leased Boeing and Airbus planes, lower flight safety criteria, and establish specific channels for smuggling sanctioned spare parts.

According to publicly accessible data, 95% of all Russian airline flights, which are on foreign planes, do not permit Russians to provide service. This is also why the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has placed Moscow on a list of countries unable to supervise flight safety.

The attribution of the “red flag” did not, however, prohibit Aeroflot and other Russian firms from conducting business both at home and abroad.

Frequent emergency landings and rollouts beyond runway in Russia

There are breakdowns, emergency landings, and rollouts beyond the runways almost every day, yet Moscow officials in control of flights pretend that the problem does not exist, despite the fact that the entire industry is on the verge of collapse. Thrilling planes, each with two or three sides, are taking to the skies.

The intelligence report states that by mid-2023, more than 35% of Russia’s civilian aircraft fleet will have been “donated” for spare parts.

The media reported that faults forced as many as five planes to make emergency landings in just two days in early December. There were no casualties or injuries in any of the incidents, but they highlight the situation in Russian civil aviation.

5 dangerous aviation incidents in Russia in December 1-2

  • An Aeroflot Airbus A321 flying from St. Petersburg to Moscow requested an emergency landing at Sheremetyevo Airport on December 2. Due to a left engine failure, the pilot made the decision. The pilot carried out the landing “as usual” with 162 passengers on board.
  • At Tyumen’s Roshchino airport, a Yamal Airlines Superjet 100 landed at an alternate airfield due to technical problems. The plane was flying from Noyabrsk to Ufa with 71 passengers and crew members on board. The airline’s backup plane flew the passengers to Ufa.
  • On December 1, an Aeroflot Airbus A321 flying from Kaliningrad to Moscow was compelled to land at Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg. The crew turned on the air conditioning system in the cockpit. The crew moved the passengers to a Boeing 777 for further transport to Moscow.
  • Another Aeroflot plane, a Boeing 737 carrying 408 passengers, took off from Moscow the next morning. Due to a pressure loss on one of the landing gear’s six wheels, the plane made an emergency landing in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
  • After taking off from Tolmachevo Airport in Novosibirsk, an IrAero plane carrying 78 passengers failed to operate its autopilot and flaps. The Superjet 100, destined for Talakan, circled the airport more than nine times before landing safely. One of the aircraft’s control system channels had failed.

The reported event occurred earlier this year, according to the leaked reports. On June 24, a serious incident involving a Boeing 737-800 RA-73654 occurred at the Perm airfield (Bolshoye Savino). The airplane rolled out of the runway on the landing course and stopped on the ground, 30 meters away from the runway exit end. As a result of the rollout, the airplane knocked down three rows of searchlight-type approach lights and damaged the tire on the inner wheel of the right landing gear support.

123 aviation incidents in the first nine months of 2023

The constant silencing of incidents, lack of spare parts for foreign planes in service, allowing unqualified persons to repair aircraft, malfunctioning airport infrastructure, and even the inability of responsible officials to track properly the air traffic turn every flight into a kind of Russian roulette game.

To avoid including depressing figures in their reports, the Federal Aviation Administration has developed a number of new terms. To avoid discussing catastrophes and disasters, Russians began using the word “aviation event.” As a result, there were no accidents in the Ural branch of Rosaviatsia’s jurisdiction in 2023, but there was one “serious aviation incident.” Officials say that a stolen Boeing 737-800 fled the runway upon landing.

In the Russian agency’s reporting records, the agency simply refers to the crash of a military helicopter that killed three crew members as an “aviation incident.”.

Those in charge of flight safety were able to report 123 aviation incidents in the first nine months of 2023. During the same time period, only Ural Airlines’ A319, A320, and A321 aircraft had 261 “moderate-risk” incidents and 9 high-risk incidents. In fact, many other Russian airlines have French and American airplanes in their fleets; thus, the actual number of failures on stolen aircraft in Russia must be far greater.

It is unknown how Russians trace harmful aviation incidents, but the fact that there were only 67 “aviation events” in the Ural branch of Rosaviatsia’s area of responsibility in 2022 implies a rapid increase in the number of problems. The statistics only capture the emergencies that were recorded. Indeed, there were many more major faults or catastrophic situations.

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Not only sanctions: reasons for aviation incidents in Russia

The number of aviation incidents in Russia is constantly increasing due to specialist incompetence, management negligence, a lack of necessary spare parts, and Russia’s basic deviation from the schedules and standards for repairing foreign-made aircraft.

In comparison to 2022, the number of flight delays increased by 44% in the Ural MTU of Rosaviatsia alone (880 vs. 490 in 2022). Simultaneously, 739 incidents of flights failing to depart on time were directly attributable to technical issues.

That is, due to a lack of access to software updates, technical advice, and quality spare parts, aircraft begin to break down. The most common failures are engines, landing gear, and brakes. The issue is slightly less common when it comes to flaps, air conditioning systems, or de-icing. All aircraft, however, are completely serviceable on paper due to air carriers’ requirements not to include information concerning faults in logbooks.

The attitude of airport and airline representatives toward their duties is equally negligent, as seen in the leaked reports. According to the claims, controllers did not track an aircraft for several hours and did not even detect when it vanished from the radar. Another dispatcher decided not to disclose a pneumatics issue on the landing gear of an IL-76 that was coming in for a landing since there was no way to fix it. Additionally, the dispatcher neglected to issue a warning about the unreleased landing gear.

But none of the preceding events compare to the emergency that occurred on October 3, 2023. The pilots scheduled the flight to depart from Orsk International Airport and fly to Magnitogorsk. Despite knowing that the airport in the city of arrival had been closed for four months, the pilots planned and submitted their flight to their management, disregarding the fact that the flight was booked. The pilots planned their flight and submitted it to their management despite the closed destination airport. The regional center of the air traffic control system’s leaders did not respond to this “minor” error either.

Perhaps Rosaviatsia’s officials are unconcerned about such issues because they follow the principle that the planet is huge and they’ll land somewhere regardless, but this has nothing to do with flight safety.

According to the data in the documents, the DIU concluded that the Russian civil aviation sector is on the edge of collapse in 2023 as a result of sanctions imposed by the civilized world on Moscow for its war against Ukraine.

The direct consequences of the sanctions for the Russian Federation are:

  • A ban on the supply of aircraft and spare parts for them is in effect.
  • There is a complete denial of maintenance and services.
  • Refusal to update software can lead to various issues and vulnerabilities.

Engines and landing gear, as well as other important elements such as hydraulic systems, flaps, and software, remain the most problematic areas of Russian aviation.

Due to the acute shortage of spare parts, the aviation industry has resorted to a practice known as “aviation cannibalism,” where aircraft are dismantled to repair others. By mid-2023, available data showed that more than 35% of aircraft in the Russian Federation had been “donated” for spare parts.

Russia’s cargo planes incidents in Turkey and Thailand

Seized Airbus and Boeing are not dominating the air cargo business, which is stalling far faster; instead, it is dominated by ancient Soviet ILs and relatively new Ukrainian ANs.

The operators neglect the maintenance of these airplanes. While Russians may still obtain spare parts for 50-year-old airplanes, getting Ukraine’s Motor Sich engines, for example, is not possible. However, turning a blind eye does not solve the problem, which is why cargo carrier fleet accidents occur on a daily basis.

For example, Abakan Air’s aircraft, which operate international flights and also provide transportation services for consumers from other nations (UAE, India, and so on), are continuously out of service. According to the freight company’s internal documentation, their planes’ engines occasionally fail, their air conditioning systems fail, and even their radios fail.

Acceptance of malfunctioning airplanes with inadequately trained pilots by international airports does not imply compliance with international air transportation safety requirements. However, Turkey, the UAE, India, and other countries loyal to the Russian regime are unlikely to change their stance until the first terrible episode occurs.

The Russians put their own nationals and passengers on other airlines at risk of being killed in an accident. At the same time, it is not even necessary to host a seized 10-year-old Airbus with disconnected brakes and worn-out tires.

It’s enough to let the SuperJet-100 with the epic name “St. Spyridon of Trimython” fly into the airport, whose pilots nearly caused a dangerous incident in Istanbul.

According to the Russian report, the crew “lost situational awareness,” which is why they rolled onto the runway when another airliner was landing. A miracle prevented the deaths, yet the pilots faced no penalties.

Extremely dangerous events caused by Russians occurred not just in Turkey but also in a number of other nations in 2023. In particular, in Thailand, inexperienced pilots nearly crashed during a landing in adverse weather but were able to maneuver and flew nearly 22 meters off the runway.

It’s difficult to say how long Russia’s civil aviation will deteriorate until everyone stops allowing it into their skies. It is most likely dependent on whether a crash involving a Russian aircraft occurs someplace outside of Russia. However, the patterns are clear.

Sanctions imposed on Russia’s aviation industry

On February 24, 2022, the international community imposed large-scale sanctions on Russia’s aviation industry, effectively closing the airspace over multiple nations to Russian planes after Putin started a war against Ukraine and invaded the neighboring country.

The sanctions hampered the Kremlin’s capacity to maintain high-tech breakthroughs, such as airplanes. This has resulted in numerous “aviation incidents” that Moscow is attempting to conceal.

Lessors from Ireland and Bermuda primarily demanded the return of all aircraft to their respective owners. The respective owners also revoked the flying safety certificates of these planes. Russia is attempting to overcome the restrictions and has even begun to seize the aircraft. They are also re-registering them in their registry as quickly as possible. This, however, does not negate the impact of sanctions. As a result, Russian airlines can currently only fly domestically and to a few “friendly” countries.

In the fall of 2023, Russia was disconected from the Swiss SITA system, which accounts for around 90% of the civil aviation sector and facilitates information sharing between airlines and airports. At the same time, Putin’s foolish war with Ukraine continues. As a result, the risk of plane crashes in Russia is increasing.

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