The largest Russian airline, Aeroflotinstalled new legs on the landing gear on one of its Boeing 777-300ERs, 18 months after the export of these and other aircraft parts to Russia was banned by the western sanctions.
The Russian flag carrier reported on August 9 that the first replacement for this type of aircraft in the country was carried out by Aeroflot Technics, its MRO subsidiary. The replacement work, which took place in the Aeroflot Technics hangar at theMoscow Sheremetyevo Airport, saw the MRO supplier install a full set of new struts, one for the nose landing gear and two for the main ones. Aeroflot pointed out that the replacement was carried out in strict accordance with the maintenance guide and that the aircraft had already been returned to service. The 777’s gear struts must be changed every 10 years or 20,000 flight cycles. Aeroflot Technics had also reported in March the replacement of the landing gear struts of three Airbus A330s of the parent airline’s fleet.
Aeroflot operates 20 777-300ERs and has two others that have been grounded for more than six months, according to the tracking service Flightradar24. Ten of these planes were acquired by the carrier on financial lease from an unnamed Irish lessor in December 2022. The airline did not disclose where it acquired the approximately 14ft (4.3m) long parts.
But an article from the Moscow Time, an independent daily which was relocated to Amsterdam in 2022 following the war in ukraine and restrictive media freedom laws in Russia, indicates that the import of spare parts exists and that Russia succeeds in circumventing the sanctions imposed by the Western powers (at the beginning of March, Boeing and Airbus stopped deliveries of spare parts, maintenance and support to Russian airlines).
If at first the Russian companies began to strip at least 25 of their planes to extract valuable spare parts, during the first six months after the outbreak of the war, spare parts for “foreign planes” were imported in Russia for at least $171 million, Verstka found. The publication studied customs data, according to which Aeroflot, S7, Pobeda And Rossiya purchased plays for $47 million, $35 million, $13 million, and $15 million, respectively. “Chinese and Emirati companies were used for imports”, says The Moscow Times.
The media thus indicates that the Russian airlines are resorting to measures that are, to say the least, contentious security level to address the issues of maintenance. Aeroflot, which has had problems replacing worn brakes on “foreign” aircraft, is said to be flying with loose brakes. Thus, as of July 31, nine Aeroflot aircraft were flying with “brakes off”. Among them, five Boeing 777s, two Airbus A321s, an A320 and an A330.
Airlines resort to such measures when it is not possible to immediately replace the brake due to malfunction or wear of the disc within the permissible limits. At the same time, it is allowed to fly with refusal for a maximum of ten days, in accordance with safety instructions.
Aeroflot’s flight operations department has warned pilots the risk of runway overrun on aircraft with the brakes off. “The plane will tend to turn sideways. <…> Pay attention to this fact, especially when landing on a wet runway with a crosswind,” the bulletin reads.
Also according to The Moscow Times, last year Aeroflot reduced the cost of aircraft repairs. If in 2021 the carrier spent 19.77 billion rubles on the maintenance of ship and aircraft engines, then in 2022 only 3.86 billion rubles were allocated for these purposes. Aeroflot explained the reduction in costs by a drop in production indicators against the background of sanctions.