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Putin’s Great Airplane Heist Jobs

by | Mar 7, 2022 | Commercial | 0 comments

The latest scheme from the world’s top nominee for international evil villain involves the retention of foreign aircraft leased to Russian airlines in an effort to combat sanctions.

Honestly, as each day goes by, it feels like I’m living in the story arc of an old Marvel comic: ‘Rich evil mastermind looks to hold the world hostage with nuclear threat’ is a relatively accurate headline for this day and age, which you could also see appearing as a headline in the Daily Bugle! Every day, we get news of one of Putin’s latest schemes in his attempts to swiftly end his invasion of Ukraine, and cope with the intense Western sanctions his actions have brought onto Russia. On that note, recent reports have come out detailing a new law Putin has signed, which will allow hundreds of leased aircraft to be registered and thus retained by Russian airlines. This comes after multiple international lessors began requesting that their aircraft be returned in line with Western sanctions, which is cutting off Russian aviation from international support. With a large amount of aircraft used by Russian airlines (like Aeroflot) coming from lease agreements, this move would undoubtedly cripple the country’s commercial aviation further – making it unable to function. The few aircraft remaining would be subject to poor maintenance and eventually be deemed unfit to fly, as the West has also cut off Russia’s aviation industry from receiving any spare parts. Currently, lessors have until March 28th to recoup their aircraft from Russia under the EU’s sanction package, but with Putin’s new law, any aircraft that have not already been recovered are unlikely to be returned to their rightful owners. Estimates seem to agree that Russia currently has around 500 foreign aircraft within its borders, which aviation consulting firm Ishka totals as being worth $500 billion. This law is, in effect, a $500 billion aircraft heist. “Our guess is that [Russian carriers] use up whatever parts they have and then start cannibalizing [parts] to keep aircraft flying, and when this is over everything gets sorted out,” stated Helane Becker, aviation analyst at Cowen.

But why cannibalize these aircraft for parts instead of just using them for flights? Well that one’s easy; you see, it is all well and good to steal a bunch of aircraft, but if you do not have the parts to maintain them, then you will quickly see that operational number reduced. In my opinion, if Russia does indeed hold around 500 foreign aircraft, it would make sense for them to use around half of that number for flights, and then just keep the rest for parts. While this may seem like a sound strategy, it is incredibly flawed in the long term; whenever this crisis is over, and Russia looks to rejoin the international community, it will have a massive bill to pay for all the aircraft it has, in effect, stolen. What is more, this will come right off the back of Western sanctions essentially hamstringing the Russian economy – making it very doubtful if Russia will be able (or willing) to pay that bill at all. This would see Russian aviation being lumped with a black mark against its name for years to come, seriously crippling the industry in the long term. I suppose it doesn’t come as a surprise that Putin has yet again only thought of a short-term ‘solution’ at the expense of a massive long-term cost.


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