Vladimir Putin has ordered nearly 500 Western-owned planes to remain in Russia rather than return – having actually stolen them from leasing firms.
The official Tass news agency reported that the Russian president has “signed a law on support measures for civil aviation, which seeks to register the rights of foreign aircraft leased by Russian companies and issue them domestic airworthiness certificates.” provides opportunity”.
A prominent US aviation commentator said: “The nationalization of 500 aircraft is underway inside Russia.”
John Ostrower, editor of air streamadded: “If completed, this would be the largest single civilian fleet destruction activity in the history of aviation. These aircraft will never again operate as part of a global fleet.”
While some Russian-made aircraft are used on domestic flights within the world’s largest country, all major airlines – including Aeroflot and BA’s former partner S7 – have fleets of modern Airbus and Boeing aircraft.
Most are owned by Western leasing companies, which have canceled contracts, invalidated insurance and sought aircraft back.
Ireland’s Aircap is the most open lessor.
Importantly, Tass pointed out: “Amendments to the Russian Air Code and some other legislative acts make it possible for Russian airlines to have a fleet of foreign aircraft and give them the opportunity to operate on domestic lines.
“The purpose of the law is to preserve fleets of foreign airplanes with Russian operators for the purposes of smooth operation of civil aviation as part of anti-sanctions measures.”
But taking ownership of Western aircraft fails to solve the maintenance problem. International sanctions prohibit the supply of spare parts.
On Twitter, Brian Corbett responded to Mr Ostrovar by saying: “Many people with Russian accents in Victorville will be looking for parts.”
He was referring to the “plane cemetery” in Victorville, in the California desert, where hundreds of planes are stored – many cannibals to spares.
Even if the planes are eventually returned, there are fears that they may be banned from international aviation due to their uncertain maintenance history while in Russia.