Sanctions imposed by the US and EU after Russia’s full-scale invasion have deprived its aviation industry of the support provided by foreign aircraft engine manufacturers needed to keep their aircraft flying safely. Carriers had almost no opportunity to export equipment abroad for overhaul and manufacturers were prevented from doing the work in Russia. This forced them to try to purchase used engines from abroad to replace their unserviceable equipment.

That route has now also been closed off, not as one would assume by increased sanctions, but because of a worldwide shortage of the types of engines involved.

Hopes that substitutes could be sourced locally have also not materialized and, where they did, Russian-produced engines are also in short supply and also have an extremely short service life, the Aviadvigatel PD-14 turbofan requires overhaul after 3,600 flight hours and its PS-90 engine after 6,000 hours, compared with around 40,000 hours for the most popular Western aircraft engines.

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Yevgeny Elin, the chairman of the S7 airline, Russia’s largest private operator, said in December that while Russia could carry out the basic work, the most complex work associated with the maintenance and repair of the “hot parts” had not yet been mastered but his company was now working on trying to reverse engineer the key components necessary to keep flying and to install them during maintenance and repair.

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According to Kommersant, S 7 technicians now believe they can fully repair the CFM56-5B and 7B engines fitted to up to 800 Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 aircraft flown by the three main Russian airlines, the largest number of them operated by Aeroflot and its subsidiaries.

S7 sources said that its technical staff was now able to overhaul low-pressure turbine (LPT) modules, low-pressure compressor (LPC) modules and the gas generators in the two varieties of CFM56 engine.

They said that S7 is already certified to overhaul the Honeywell 131-9A and Honeywell 131-9B auxiliary power units (APUs) for the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 as well as the Honeywell RE220 APU on Russia’s Sukhoi SSJ 100 “Superjet.” 

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S7 is hoping that its services in this area will be used by the other airlines operating the relevant aircraft.

Oleg Panteleev, head of the independent Russian aviation analyst agency AviaPort told Kommersant that the level of technology used in CFM56 “does not look prohibitively difficult for Russia.”

According to him, the now-bankrupt Transaero aircraft engineering company had mastered the disassembly and repair of the key modules of the engines some ten years ago, but the development of hot-end repair capability in the Russian Federation was considered unnecessary at the time due to the high cost compared with the availability of foreign service companies, of which Russia has now been deprived by sanctions.

According to the Kommersant report, overhaul of these parts of the CFM56 will take between 10 and 12 weeks with costs comparable to those charged by foreign manufacturers “and much lower than the purchase price” of a used engine, which can be as high as $20 million if one can even be sourced.

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Despite the S 7 claims Alexey Sinitsky, director of research and development at the commercial aviation advisors, Infomost Consulting, said that the legal responsibility for certifying components and processes used in any such repairs in Russia lies with the Rostransnadzor Federal Service for Supervision of Transport aviation regulator, and not with the manufacturer. It is unclear whether such certification has yet been provided.

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