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Aviation Game-Changer: Rus.sia’s Airbus A330-300s Head to Iran for Repairs, Sparks Potential Partnership with Aeroflot for Maintenance

Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, reportedly dispatched one of its Airbus A330-300s to Iran for repairs, marking the first instance of a Russian airline seeking maintenance services in Iran, as stated by the Russian news website RBC on April 10. The decision to conduct the repairs in Iran seems to be a consequence of the Western sanctions that prohibit Russian airlines from obtaining aircraft maintenance services. The Russian aircraft arrived in Iran on April 5, and technicians from Mahan Air, an Iranian airline, will be responsible for the maintenance work. Aeroflot acknowledged the decision to send one of its planes to Iran for maintenance, highlighting that Mahan Air possessed the necessary equipment, facilities, certifications, and extensive experience to carry out the task to a high level of quality, according to RBC. Sources cited by RBC revealed that Aeroflot had been exploring the possibility of utilizing maintenance services in Iran for several months.

The primary objective of sending the first A330 to Mahan Air for maintenance is to ensure the proper condition of the landing gear struts. Previously, Aeroflot utilized the services of other contractors, such as HAECO in Hong Kong, for these maintenance procedures. In 2021, Aeroflot and HAECO agreed to a new long-term contract for the maintenance and overhaul of aircraft components. However, the international sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine have affected various aspects, including the availability of repair services and replacement components for Russian airlines. According to the news agency’s information, Aeroflot’s fleet consisted of 178 Airbus and Boeing airplanes as of April 1, making it the largest airline in Russia.

Russian airline companies are urging regulatory authorities to allow them to extend 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 world’s largest aircraft leasing company, has taken legal action against insurers in an attempt to seek compensation of $3.5 billion for its aircraft and engines currently stranded in Russia. The Russian aviation industry is facing significant challenges due to the impact of Western sanctions, which have further limited the struggling sector’s access to crucial imported parts. As a result, several Russian airlines are encountering difficulties in their operations. Kommersant, a Russian newspaper, reported that at least nine airlines in the country suspended their operations in 2022.

Among them, four airlines had their airworthiness certificates revoked by the national aviation regulator, Rosaviatsiya. Why Did Russia Seek Assistance from Iran? Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the European Union and the United States imposed sanctions on the Russian aviation industry. These sanctions included prohibiting the use of Russian planes in their airspace, banning the sale of spare parts, insurance, and maintenance services to Russian airlines, and requiring leasing companies to terminate all aircraft leases with Russian carriers. Consequently, Russian airlines had limited options and resorted to dismantling grounded planes for spare parts. In December 2022, Izvestia reported that the Kremlin had officially approved this practice, although it was already common. Andrei Patrakov, the founder of the flight safety company RunAvia, stated to RFE/RL that Russian regulators took more drastic measures after realizing that allowing 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 accompanied by documentation from third countries like Iran, indicating a sense of desperation, added Patrakov.

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 agreement also included provisions for the repair and maintenance of Russian aircraft. While Iran may not have a strong foothold in the aviation industry, it has managed to maintain and operate some older Western aircraft despite facing similar sanctions as Russia. Due to different international sanctions, Iran has been unable to purchase new aircraft or spare components from international manufacturers for several years. However, Iranian airlines have continued their operations by utilizing certain aircraft for spare parts. The fact that Russian aircraft are now being sent to Iran for repairs indicates an increasing partnership between the two nations, despite ongoing warnings from Western countries accusing Iran of assisting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by providing drones.

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