28 Apr 2022 12:30

Russian aviation strategy to 2030 anticipates drop in traffic amid loss of foreign aircraft - paper

MOSCOW. April 28 (Interfax) - Russia's Transport Ministry has drafted a program for the development of the aviation sector to 2030 and sent it to airlines for review, national daily Kommersant reported on Thursday.

The program anticipates a decline in passenger traffic amid a gradual decrease in the number of foreign aircraft operated by airlines.

The strategy posits two scenarios, baseline and pessimistic. The baseline scenario assumes that airlines will find ways to source spare parts and consumables, taking into account that up to a third of the existing fleet will be cannibalized for parts.

"As a result, at least 70% of the foreign aircraft fleet will remain in operation by the end of 2025," the baseline forecast projects.

The pessimistic scenario assumes that airlines will not manage to find new sources of spare parts, in which case beginning in the second half of 2022 the fleet of foreign aircraft will start to rapidly shrink as planes are dismantled to ensure the flight worthiness of those that remain in operation. The forecast does not specify how many aircraft will remain operational, but the paper reported a source at the ministry as saying that the worst scenario assumes that half to two thirds of the fleet will be grounded.

The priority is to obtain spare parts and consumables for maintenance, since current supplies for some items amount to two to five months, the document said. There is a particular need for repairs of aircraft tires and restoration of thermal brake linings. A prototype locally produced primary tire for the SSJ100 airliner is undergoing lab tests, but the manufacturer estimates the whole set of tests will take about a year, the strategy said. It did not specify the number of existing tires per plane in reserve.

The strategy also noted the "current low level of penetration of domestic digital services and solutions for the main critically important technological processes," including ones that affect the "direct ability to carry out the process of transport and safety." These include information exchange (telegraphy), "land-air-land" digital communication systems, mapping and meteorological information systems and flight planning systems. One of the possible solutions is to select a Russian or freely available analog of the software, the strategy said.

The ministry said that 1,287 aircraft, including cargo, private and government aviation, are operated in Russia, of which 1,140 were registered in the Russian registry as of April 20. However, only 470 of the planes were produced in Russia or the former Soviet Union. Foreign-made aircraft and the Russian SSJ100, which is currently fitted with foreign engines, systems and components, carry more than 90% of all passengers in Russia.

"Taking into account the dynamic of the decommissioning of foreign aircraft," the ministry's baseline scenario projects that the fleet in Russia will shrink to 999 aircraft in 2025, including 427 foreign ones. However, by 2030 the fleet is supposed to grow to 1,602, including 208 foreign aircraft, thanks to the accelerated production of domestic planes.

The pessimistic scenario assumes foreign planes will be decommissioned at a faster pace, so the fleet will shrink to 870 aircraft by 2025, including 298 foreign ones. But then it is expected to grow to 1,556 aircraft by 2030.

The forecast for passenger traffic in 2022 remains unchanged at 100 million passengers, but subsequently the baseline scenario sees traffic dropping to 76.3 million passengers in 2025 before rebounding to 92.2 million in 2030. The pessimistic scenario forecasts that traffic will tumble to 58.2 million passengers in 2025 and only grow back to 85.7 million in 2030.

However, revisions to the program are being discussed that would provide for the full recovery of traffic by 2030, the paper's source at the ministry said.

The Transport System Development Program, which the Transport Ministry cited, proposes 627 billion rubles in budget funding for the aviation sector in the period to 2030, including 331.4 billion rubles to 2025. This includes 100 billion rubles for updated measures to support passenger traffic, 32 billion rubles to buy flight simulators and aircraft for training centers, and 29.3 billion rubles in subsidies for services in the Far East Federal District.

The main risks that the Transport Ministry sees are the problem of operating existing aircraft "in the transition period" and delays in deliveries of new Russian planes.

This could lead to a "drastic loss" in the number of modern aircraft and a corresponding drop in traffic, the bankruptcy of airlines, loss of industry professionals, degradation of the route network and ground infrastructure and a decline in flight safety, the ministry warned.

The keystone of the whole strategy is the Russian aircraft industry's ability to accelerate production almost sixfold over eight years amid sanctions. The country produced only 32 civilian aircraft in 2021.