Western sanctions force Russian airlines to use ‘Christmas trees’ to keep aircraft in the skies

Aeroflot Boeing 737-800 aircraft ©AirTeamImages

Russian carriers, including Aeroflot, are having to cannibalise certain aircraft to provide sufficient spare parts to keep other aircraft in the skies. Western sanctions have seen an embargo on the supply of aircraft spare parts to Russia since its invasion of Ukraine. Not only has the sanction had an effect on Airbus and Boeing aircraft, but the Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100, which is assembled in Russia relies heavily on foreign spare parts. It is understood that countries which have not imposed sanctions on Russia are reluctant to provide any parts from their own airlines’ inventory for fear of secondary sanctions being imposed against them by Western countries.

According to a Reuters news agency source, “Each single part has its own (unique) number and if the documents will have a Russian airline as the final buyer, then no one would agree to supply, neither China nor Dubai,” adding that all parts have to be made known to Boeing and Airbus before they are supplied to the end-user.

The practice of using spare parts from a disused aircraft to keep another one operational sees the term ‘Christmas tree’ used to describe the plane that is being cannibalised.  At least one Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100 and an Airbus A350, both operated by Aeroflot, are currently grounded and being disassembled, another Reuters’ source familiar with the matter said. They added that equipment was being taken from a couple of Aeroflot’s Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s, as the carrier needs more spare parts from those models for its other Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s.

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