Ural Airlines A320 that landed in a wheat field

A third of Russia’s commercial aircraft fleet is being cannibalized – report

Information was released by the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, which claims to have hacked the servers of Rosaviatsiya, the Russian civil aviation agency

Ukraine’s intelligence service claims to have hacked into the servers of Rosaviatsiya, Russia’s civil aviation agency, and revealed data demonstrating the scrapping of the country’s commercial aircraft fleet.

Among several data released, there is the high level of cannibalization of planes, which would affect more than 35% of the fleet, in addition to the large use of uncertified spare parts.

The intercepted documents covering a period of more than a year and a half would show an intense deterioration in air services in Russia in the face of the sanctions launched by the West after the military invasion of Ukraine.

Yakutia SSJ100 (Michael Ward)

According to the report, Russia had only 10% of around 820 commercial planes equipped with uncertified components in March 2022, shortly after the invasion. This rate would already be close to 70% of the fleet currently.

Some of the Russian aircraft have been taken to Iran to undergo “handicrafted” maintenance services, says the Ukrainian government.

Even the fleet of Antonov An-2 biplanes, a versatile plane used in general aviation, would be grounded due to a lack of spare parts for the engines, which are manufactured in Poland.

Aeroflot Boeing 777-300ER (Kevin Hackert/CC)

Increase in accidents and technical failures

The difficulty in maintaining civil aircraft in safe operating conditions would have caused a large increase in accidents. According to alleged Rosaviatsiya documents, in January 2023 alone, 185 accidents were recorded, a third of which were considered serious.

The aircraft most affected by problems would be the SSJ-100 Superjet, a regional jet developed in Russia, with 34 cases of emergency.

Another alarming fact concerns aircraft malfunction problems, which reached 150 cases between January and September 2023, three times more than in 2022.

Antonov An-2 (Aleksandr Markin)
The An-2 SE-KPE that crash on Saturday (Kjell Brattfors)

Boeing jets have been most affected by technical failures, with 33 occurrences in January this year among a fleet of 230 aircraft. Airbus has 220 of its jets in Russia and they had 19 failures in the same month.

Another Western manufacturer, Embraer, has 21 aircraft registered in Russia, but seven of them are out of service due to a lack of parts.

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“An analysis of the character of aviation incidents from the documents obtained indicates that a number of failures, especially those related to engines, landing gear and wing mechanics, are of a systemic type. The trend indicates that the civil aviation sector in Russia is in a zone of serious turbulence with a high risk of a steep dive,” said the Ukrainian report.

The veracity of the documents cannot be confirmed.