After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, Russia took the unprecedented step of breaking hundreds of recalled leases for passenger jets, effectively stealing $10 billion in commercial airliners from Western companies. In the face of strict sanctions from Western aircraft manufacturers, Russia was cut off from replacement parts and maintenance workers, calling into question how Russian airlines would keep the jets flying. Now, just six months after the invasion, some airlines have already begun to dismantle operational—and in some cases nearly new—aircraft to use for parts.
Russian air carriers have already been in dire straits since the invasion, with most countries closing off their airspace entirely to Russian aircraft and Airbus and Boeing cutting off parts and labor entirely to Russian firms. Additionally, the stolen planes have even been barred from once-friendly airspace in China, further limiting the routes that they can still run.
The move to strip the perfectly functional planes for parts was nearly inevitable in the wake of official Russian government guidance to, well, strip working aircraft for parts. However, these are the first confirmed reports of working planes being dismantled to keep other aircraft flightworthy. The current reports suggest that multiple 737s and A320s are being dismantled for spares, but more concerningly, so is an Aeroflot Airbus A350, which is a two-and-a-half-year-old plane at the oldest. Aeroflot only has seven A350s in its fleet and as SimpleFlying points out, the dismantled plane is potentially one that was delivered the exact same day the invasion began.
Also worthy of note is that a Sukhoi Superjet 100, a Russian-made jet, is also being dismantled. This likely means that the country's supply-chain issues have prevented firms from maintaining even domestically-produced aircraft. Previous reports suggested that parts delays could continue for up to a year for the Sukhoi. That, combined with the ongoing invasion and new A350 being dismantled, suggests Russia's aviation industry still faces tough times ahead.