This month Russia’s aviation authority Rosaviatsiya published flight safety data, which indicates that reliability of aircraft operated by Russian airlines has not degraded – contrary to spiteful rumors.
Russia’s largest airline, Aeroflot, has confirmed Rosaviatsiya’s conclusions and explained how it keeps flights safe and its aircraft airworthy.
Despite restrictions imposed by the western sanctions, Aeroflot fleet’s continued airworthiness is ensured with strict adherence to the Air Code of Russian Federation, the main set of regulations for the country’s commercial aviation industry. In 2023 the average daily flight time per aircraft increased by 15% compared to 2021 reaching 10.67 hours. Dispatch reliability rate has nevertheless remained at respected 99% – same as in 2021. Average flight time per one incident attributed to technical malfunctions this year has exceeded 14,000 hours – which is in fact 52% better than the “pre-sanction” 2021 numbers.
Since 2005 Aeroflot has been assessing its flight safety levels by an integrated performance index, which is calculated as a ratio of aviation events (with the extent of their overall effect on flight safety factored in) to the aircraft fleet total flight time. The current index is stable at 99.965%, which matches the airline’s target indicator.
Russian commercial aviation industry on the whole (both passenger and cargo operators), according to Rosaviatsiya’s data for eleven months of 2023, has reduced incident rate by 1.3 per cent compared to the same period of 2022, to 670 cases.
The number of incidents attributed to technical malfunctions of aircraft and engines was nearly 400, which is two per cent below than in January through February of 2022. In November, the number of such incidents decreased by 18 per cent year-on-year, to 40 cases.
Notably, of the total number of incidents, just 60 per cent were due to technical reasons, while the remaining 40 per cent were caused by other factors. Along with that, Rosaviatsiya emphasizes, the incident rates decreased despite growing total flight time of aircraft fleet operated by Russian airlines.
According to the national aeronavigation service and air traffic management provider State Corporation for ATM, from January through to November the total flight time of Russian airspace users increased by 6.5 per cent year-on-year, to 1.85 million hours.
“The timely measures taken by both the Russian government and airlines, including elaboration of new approaches and technical solutions in aircraft maintenance which are not in contradiction with the OEM guidelines, has enabled the industry to maintain its high level of safety while at the same time increasing its fleet flight time”, commented head of Rosaviatsiya’s continued airworthiness department Mikhail Vasilenkov. “Russian airlines have access to logistic chains, which provide all necessary parts and components to continue normal operation of aircraft.”
According to Rosaviatsiya, there are 445 certified maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) organizations providing aircraft continued airworthiness, of which six leading providers have 23 hangar facilities completely outfitted for all aircraft types operated by Russian airlines. There is 21 organization approved for structural modifications of western-built aircraft.
Aeroflot Group is parent to the country’s largest MRO company, Aeroflot Technics. The company possesses six hangar complexes at Moscow Sheremetyevo airport and in Orenburg, with combined area of over 67,200 square meters, which can simultaneously service up to 20 aircraft of different types providing line and base maintenance.
In 2023 Aeroflot Technics has completed in excess of 1,000 maintenance checks, including 131 C-check and over 900 A-checks. This year the company continued its development and added new works to its capability list, including replacement of gear struts in Airbus A330 and Boeing 777. It also launched a new certified facility for A320 gear strut repairs. There are plans to add other types of aircraft to the gear repairs capability.
Relying on the support of the newly created engineering departments of its parent company, Aeroflot Technics has all prerequisites to grow into the center of competence for the entire industry.
Sanctions-imposed restrictions forced Aeroflot to restructure its MRO services and challenge them with the objective of technological sovereignty in ensuring continued airworthiness of the groups’ airlines’ fleet.
Aeroflot Technics subsidiary, which since 2021 had been able to perform base maintenance checks on all of the aircraft types operated by the group, was further reinforced by transfer of facilities and staff from Aeroflot’s in-house maintenance department.
Aeroflot itself, in the meantime, created two sub-structures responsible for continued airworthiness of aircraft – one for component MRO and the other for design and solution development.
Once aircraft had been transferred to the Russian register, the component MRO department urgently expanded its component list bringing it to 352 items by the end of 2022. It now operates 3,300 units of equipment, measurement technology and tooling. The department covers all basic equipment categories from landing gear and in-flight entertainment systems for automated flight controls and navigation systems.
The other department was created to build competences in design and to elaborate amendments and supplements to technical documentation. These competences are critical to maintain continued airworthiness of the fleet in the conditions when there is no support from the OEMs. The core of this department is the team of experienced engineers formerly employed by Boeing’s Russia-based design bureau.
In March 2023 Rosaviatsiya, Russian aviation authority, granted Aeroflot a FAP-21J approval as equipment developer. It certifies the company to introduce modifications in all aircraft structures, systems and engines as well as develop an array of third-tier components (cabin interior elements, galleys etc). Aeroflot Technics won its own similar approval.
In September 2023 Aeroflot and State Corporation Rosatom signed a strategic cooperation memorandum for development, testing, production and maintenance of aviation components. The companies intend to create a production organization, which will be capable of providing the entire cycle from development to production of Russian-made analogues of expendables and parts for western-built aircraft.
Even now, Aeroflot Group ensures complete cycle of its fleet’s continued airworthiness – from design and certification to maintenance of aircraft and components. High rate of dispatch reliability is ensured not only by the bases at Sheremetyevo, St.Petersburg (Pulkovo) and Orenburg, but also by a network of line maintenance stations at Aeroflot’s destinations. In peak periods the airline operates up to 500 daily flights, retaining the same high levels of punctuality. In June 2023 Aeroflot and Rossiya were third and fifth most punctual airlines globally, among the world’s top-50 airlines by passenger traffic. The punctuality index for the entire group was 93.2 per cent, while for Aeroflot – 93.8 per cent.
However, highest standards of technical serviceability is but one layer in the airline’s safety management system.
Aeroflot has an active flight safety committee, which continuously analyzes risks and develops measures to improve flight safety performance and prevent incidents. The committee researches risks across all areas of operations – flight operations, maintenance, ground handling, passenger safety on board, aeronavigation, cargo shipping and security.
The committee has separately analyzed and assessed risks associated with the restrictions imposed by the manufacturers and their impact on operational safety. It is elaborating measures aimed at eliminating the potential threats.
The company has continued to improve its voluntary reporting system and to analyze its effectiveness. All reports, connected with flight safety are studied and lead to corrective measures.
Russian Aviation Insider
Powered by Air Transport Observer, Russia & CIS’ premier information provider on commercial aviation with a 20-year legacy, Russian Aviation Insider provides you with timely and reliable business news, insights and analysis on commercial aviation all around CIS.
Sign up for our free Newsletter and never miss:
Get relevant data from reliable industry sources!