NewsSiberian airlines plead for extended aircraft lifespan amidst western sanctions

Siberian airlines plead for extended aircraft lifespan amidst western sanctions

An-26 - illustrative picture
An-26 - illustrative picture
Images source: © Adobe Stock | viktor karasev

4:19 AM EST, January 16, 2024

Reuters affirms that both airlines are struggling with their fleets. The airlines largely depend on two aircraft models — the AN-24 and AN-26 — built in the late 50s and early 60s at Antonov factories in Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union). These aircraft are approaching an age where they are typically replaced with newer models.

As explained by Reuters, standard retirement for aircraft generally occurs after 60 years of use. For Polar Airlines and Angara, the first of their planes to reach this age will do so this year, and by 2030, this will be the case for a quarter of their fleets.

Substitution for worn-out planes is lacking

Presently, the airlines lack suitable replacements for their older aircraft. Western sanctions have restricted Russia's purchasing ability from leading aviation companies such as Boeing and Airbus. Although efforts are ongoing, Russia doesn't produce aircraft of similar parameters and size as the An-24 and An-26.

According to Sergei Zorin, CEO of Angara, the likely successor to the Antonov models is expected to be the Russian-made TVRS-44 Ladoga. However, it isn't estimated that this new model will enter mass production until 2027.

In the meantime, the airlines have no choice but to continue operating their current fleets. Another challenge is the increasing cost of maintaining these aged aircraft in good condition. Zorin argues that state support is essential for the airlines to manage these rising costs.

While the Federal Air Transport Agency didn't respond to Reuters' comment request, a representative of the trade ministry had previously stated in November that help was under consideration.

Aircraft are failing, and replacement parts are scarce

In December, the impact of Western sanctions became quite noticeable. Belsat reported that ten civilian airplanes were forced to make emergency landings in the first week of December alone. This is mainly due to the sanctions, which have made it difficult for Russians to procure replacement parts for planes they previously purchased from the West. It is important to note that most civilian aircraft operated by Russian carriers are either Boeings or Airbuses.

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