The Ukraine War & Aviation: Key Questions & Answers
March 20, 2022
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The Russian invasion of Ukraine has disrupted the aviation industry massively and immediately and likely will have far-reaching consequences even in the long term.
Here are answers to some of the most pressing questions about how the war is affecting commercial air transport.
How do the sanctions impact Russian airlines?
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Sanctions and voluntary decisions by Western manufacturers and suppliers to cut ties with Russian and Belarusian operators are forcing affected carriers to become self-sufficient quickly. Airworthiness certificates granted by foreign regulators, such as the Irish Aviation Authority, covering aircraft on their registries for tax or other beneficial reasons must be replaced by Russian approvals—a move for which Russian President Vladimir Putin paved the way in new legislation adopted March 14.
What is the long-term perspective for Russian airlines? Could Russia become another Iran?
Losing access to international markets and the decline in what was a booming domestic sector before the war will create excess capacity—and open the door for parts cannibalization within subfleets if it becomes necessary. Intermediaries such as businesses serving as fronts for the operators in neutral or nonsanctioned countries could purchase needed parts and funnel them into the country, for example. However, EASA has specified that the use of goods, technical assistance or services “whether or not originating in the [European] Union” is prohibited “to any natural or legal person, entity or body in Russia or for use in Russia.”
How meaningful are the operational challenges of avoiding Russian airspace?
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Since the beginning of March, at least 21 airlines have routed flights around Russian airspace, estimates aircraft tracking specialist Flightradar24. Routes between Europe and Asia have been most affected. The penalties include huge increases in fuel burn at a time of high volatility in fuel costs, greater crew and equipment use costs, reduced payloads in some cases and increased exposure to the risks and costs of diversions and aircraft-on-the-ground events.
Are concerns regarding aviation security outside Ukraine justified?
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Airspace restrictions put in place early in the conflict helped ensure that commercial operators had ample warning to steer clear of Russia’s advance into Ukraine. Officially, national carrier Ukraine International Airlines, citing a notice to air missions issued by the country’s State Aviation Administration closing the country’s airspace, has suspended all operations until March 23. The continuing war could cause that time frame to be extended. Other operators have taken similar steps.
Are Boeing, Airbus and other OEMs facing parts and material shortages?
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In the big picture, OEMs are not facing significant parts and material shortages. The reason is because the COVID-19 pandemic—along with Boeing’s halting production of the 737 MAX and 787 programs—wiped out roughly two years’ worth of production, and OEMs reportedly have mountains of backed-up inventory to process from their supply chains. Titanium, nickel and other raw material supplies are expected to be reliable for 1-2 years. The war in Ukraine is expected to exacerbate costs of raw materials and energy in the short term.
Other questions answered by our editors:
- Are aircraft still insured? - What are the chances of the leased fleet being returned? - How do the sanctions affect the Irkut MC-21 and Sukhoi Superjet programs? - Should Airbus and Boeing revisit plans to raise production rates? - What is the impact on air travel demand globally? - What are the consequences for air cargo? - What could be the fallout for the industry’s environmental targets?