Cannibalization, Confiscation Risks Haunt Insurers

Credit: Joe Pries

Earlier this month brought news of a second ex-Copa Boeing 737NG acquired for teardown by Aventure Aviation.

The aircraft is already undergoing teardown in Roswell, New Mexico, with Aventure noting that it was talking to other aircraft owners about performing similar work on their idle aircraft, and adding that “talks have increased due to the amount of early lease returns from Russia and conflict zones.”

However, the pictures of the 22-year-old, part-dismantled 737NG may also stir unease among lessors with much newer aircraft still in Russia.

This is due to growing concern that Russian airlines will not cooperate with requests to repossess the aircraft following the lease terminations required by sanctions on Russia.

And with Russia also blocked from receiving spare parts from the West, continued operations of its airline fleets will soon require cannibalization of parts from other aircraft.

As bad as that would be, an even worse possibility is that Russia orders its state-owned airlines to confiscate their leased aircraft. In both cases, lessors should be protected from damage to, or loss of aircraft by war insurance policies, but, even so, an almighty tussle with their insurers appears likely if timely repossession cannot be achieved.

Risk analyst Russell Group estimates that 589 Western-built aircraft with an aircraft market value of $13 billion (£9 billion) are currently on the ground in Russian airports. While the number linked to U.S. and European lessors is less than that, the potential market value of claims would still dwarf any previous event, including claims linked to the 9/11 attacks.

“There is a large concern in the aviation war market at the moment; clients are all trying to understand the number and value of planes on the ground in Russia, as there are concerns that these aircraft could be confiscated by the Russian government,” said Suki Basi, Russell Group’s managing director.

Alex Derber

Alex Derber is a UK-based aviation journalist and editor of the Engine Yearbook. He contributes regular features, news and opinion pieces about the…