Russia’s largest airline, Aeroflot, has sent one of its Airbus A330-300s to Iran for repairs, marking the first time a Russian airline has had to seek repairs in Iran, the Russian news website RBC reported on April 10.
The decision to carry out repairs on the aircraft in Iran was apparently made due to the Western sanctions prohibiting the maintenance of aircraft owned by Russian airlines.
The Russian aircraft arrived in Iran on April 5, and Iranian airline Mahan Air technicians would perform maintenance work.
Aeroflot acknowledged sending one of its planes to Iran for maintenance, stating that Mahan Air had “the necessary equipment and facilities, certificates, and vast experience” for the task and that it anticipated the work would be carried out “to a high a high level of quality,” according to RBC.
According to RBC’s sources, Aeroflot has reportedly explored the prospect of maintenance in Iran for several months. Keeping the aircraft’s landing gear struts in good condition is the primary objective of sending the first A330 to Mahan Air for maintenance.
Previously, Aeroflot performed these services using the facilities of other contractors, like HAECO of Hong Kong. The Russian company and HAECO agreed to a new, long-term contract to maintain and overhaul aircraft components in 2021.
However, the international sanctions imposed on Moscow in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine have impacted several aspects, including providing repair services and replacement components to Russian airlines.
As per the information provided by the news agency, Aeroflot has 178 Airbus and Boeing airplanes in its fleet as of April 1, and it is considered the biggest airline in Russia.
Airline companies in Russia are requesting the regulatory authorities to allow them to increase the service intervals for Western aircraft in exceptional circumstances. Proposals have already been submitted to the Federal Air Transport Agency and the Federal Service for Supervision of Transport.
Meanwhile, AerCap, the biggest aircraft leasing firm globally, has taken legal action against insurers, seeking compensation of US$3.5 billion for its planes and engines currently stuck in Russia.
The aviation industry in Russia is facing significant challenges due to the impact of Western sanctions, which have further restricted the already struggling sector’s access to essential imported parts.
As a result, several Russian airlines are finding it difficult to operate. Kommersant, a Russian newspaper, reported that at least nine airlines in the country suspended their operations in 2022. Among these, four airlines had their airworthiness certificates revoked by the national aviation regulator, Rosaviatsiya.
Why Did Russia Turn To Iran For Help?
After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the European Union and the United States imposed sanctions on the Russian aviation industry.
The sanctions prohibited the use of Russian planes in their airspace, banned the sale of spare parts, insurance, and maintenance services for Russian airlines, and mandated leasing companies to terminate all aircraft leases to Russian carriers.
Consequently, Russian airlines had limited options and had to resort to stripping grounded planes for spare parts. Izvestia reported in December 2022 that the Kremlin had legally approved cannibalization, even though it was already commonly practiced.
Andrei Patrakov, the founder of the flight safety company RunAvia, told RFE/RL that the Russian regulators had taken a more drastic measure after realizing that permitting the use of original spare parts, even with documentation from third countries, was insufficient.
As a result, they authorized the use of non-original spare parts, even if they were accompanied by documentation from third countries like Iran, indicating a sense of desperation, Patrakov added.
In July 2022, Russia and Iran signed an agreement to supply equipment and spare parts to support Russia’s aviation industry despite both countries being under international sanctions.
The deal also included provisions for the repair and maintenance of Russian aircraft. Although Iran may not have a strong foothold in the aviation industry, it has been able to maintain and operate some older Western aircraft despite facing similar sanctions as those imposed on Russia.
Iran has been unable to purchase new aircraft or spare components from international manufacturers for several years owing to different international sanctions. However, the country’s airlines have continued operating by utilizing some aircraft for spare parts.
Almost 100 of the 250 aircraft in the Iranian airline’s fleet were grounded in 2018 due to maintenance issues or cannibalization for spare parts.
Nevertheless, the fact that Russian aircraft are being sent to Iran for repairs indicates an increasing partnership between the two nations, despite ongoing warnings from Western countries, which accuse Iran of aiding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by providing drones.