An Aeroflot plane flying from Moscow was forced to make an emergency landing on Friday, the latest in a series of such incidents to hit the sanctions-hit Russian aviation industry in recent weeks.

The Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Sakhalin Region said that the Boeing 777 aircraft with four crew members and 408 passengers received a warning about a pressure drop in one of the landing gear wheels during the flight.

The plane made an emergency landing at Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Airport. Images posted on social media showed damage to the plane’s landing gear.

Several similar incidents have been reported in recent months – in August, passengers on a Red Wings flight were stranded in the Ural city of Yekaterinburg for 24 hours due to simultaneous “technical malfunctions” on the only two available aircraft.

That same month, a Russian Pegas Fly aircraft was delayed in Thailand due to glitches in the weather monitoring system.

In early October, state airline Aeroflot suffered three technical failures on its aircraft in a single day.

The latest incident comes just days after a hack of Kremlin data revealed that Russia’s aviation industry is “on the verge of collapse” due to insufficient spare parts, uncertified repair services and other systemic maintenance problems caused by sanctions.

The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry (HUR) has published the details of its latest “special cyber operation” on its Telegram channel.

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This operation involved a hacker attack on the Russian Aviation Authority’s Rosaviatsiya computer system, which records all data related to flight safety records, including reports of “emergency events.”

The massive volume of data HUR collected includes more than 18 months of records from 2022 and 2023.

Their analysis of the information received led intelligence officials to an inescapable conclusion: Russian civil aviation was “on the verge of collapse.”

Why is it breaking down?

Most of Russian airlines’ planes are manufactured by Airbus or Boeing, Western companies that have stopped doing business with Russia.

The main problems facing Russian airlines lie in the area of ​​engine maintenance and computerized control systems.

The sector, which is heavily dependent on international suppliers, was one of the hardest hit by Western sanctions following Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.

Experts say Russian airlines, cut off from Europe’s Airbus and U.S.-based Boeing, are having particular difficulty securing and maintaining both the physical parts and the advanced software needed to keep planes in the air hold.

What other impact did this have on the industry?

Russian media reported that S7, Russia’s largest private airline, will reduce the number of its flights by 10 to 15 percent in the fall-winter period of 2023-2024 due to maintenance problems with the US-made engines of its Airbus aircraft.

Unable to secure original parts for their Western-made jets, Russian companies have resorted to cannibalizing their existing fleet and grounding entire planes to be dismantled for parts.

Such a solution is only seen as a short-term solution.

What did the Kremlin say?

The Kremlin has acknowledged that all is not well in the Russian aviation industry.

“We are facing new challenges and are looking for new ways to solve them,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked about the headwinds facing the Russian aviation sector.

Russian politicians are pinning their hopes on domestic manufacturers building hundreds of planes to replace Western models.

But Russia’s recent record in aircraft construction is unpredictable.

The country’s main post-Soviet model – the Sukhoi Superjet – had already earned a reputation for being prone to breakdowns and accidents before Western sanctions came into force.

Plans for a new medium-haul aircraft, the Irkut MS-21, are well behind schedule. In April, a Russian aviation association expressed concern about the slow production schedule for new domestic aircraft they need to replace their Western-made fleet.

“Maintaining the airworthiness of our foreign aircraft requires significant expenditure,” the Russian Association of Air Transport Operators said in a report.

If Moscow fails to circumvent Western sanctions to secure aircraft parts or deploy poorly maintained planes, the number of Russia’s fleet could fall by more than a third – from 850 to 554 – by 2033, analysts at the consultancy say Oliver Wyman.

What happens if Russia can’t fix things?

Russia is no stranger to aviation disasters due to the pressure on the industry.

The country experienced a series of crashes in the 1990s and early 2000s that killed hundreds of people, caused by an aging Soviet fleet and poorly maintained aircraft.

Permanently restricting air traffic overall is also not an option in a country with eleven time zones. Western countries, including the European Union, the United States and Britain, have banned Russian airlines from operating in their airspace.

So far, domestic air traffic within Russia has not declined noticeably since the start of the Russian offensive against Ukraine.

The Aviation Safety Network (ASN) also reported that the number of aviation accidents in Russia during the reporting period remained within the range recorded in previous years.

But over time the risks are likely to increase.

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