29 Nov 2023 10:41

S7 calls for mastering reverse engineering to extend operations of Boeing and Airbus aircraft in Russia

MOSCOW. Nov 29 (Interfax) - Extending the operation of Boeing and Airbus aircraft in Russia under Western sanctions is possible if we master reverse engineering, Chairman of the Board of Directors of S7 Group Evgeniy Elin said.

The Russian Government has adopted a program for the development of the aviation industry, which determines the pace at which domestic aircraft will be produced, Elin said, speaking at the Russian Industrialist forum in St. Petersburg. According to this document, by 2030, 545 medium-haul aircraft will be operating in the country, including 340 Russian MS-21 and Tu-214 aircraft and 205 foreign Airbus A320 and Boeing 737.

"There are two problems: for the entire time period since 1917, not a single program has been completed on time. In addition, the second problem, a more serious one, is that the key element of the aircraft is the engine. The service life of a Western engine is ten years; eight years in reality. Eight years after the start of operation, the engine must undergo major repairs. By 2022, we add eight years and then by 2030, if we do not learn how to overhaul the engines, there won't be 205 foreign aircraft, but zero," Elin said.

There are two ways to resolve this situation, he said. The first is to focus on the production of equipment with domestic engines. However, in this case, the Russian aviation industry is "guaranteed to always lag behind. We won't have time to catch up technically; we won't be able to develop the knowledge base to catch up with modern Western engines. Because Western companies are not asleep either. In 20 years they will release the next engine," said Elin.

The average flight time before overhaul of the most modern Russian aircraft engine, the PD-14, which will be installed on the MC-21, will be 3,600 hours in 2026, and 12,500 hours in 2030. While the American-French CFM56 (used on medium-haul Boeing and Airbus) developed in the 1990s, can go 40,000 hours, Elin said. "This means that, God willing, by 2030 we will be closer to today's modern engines. In any case, we are lagging behind by about 15 years. Not because our engineers are stupid or we are doing something we don't know how to do, but because there is such a thing as an empirical evidence base, and there is certification, so that we can fly safely," he said.

In this regard, it is advisable to "actively engage in reverse engineering - that is, to master and mimic advanced technology and extend the service life of the equipment we fly," Elin said.

"An engine is not monolithic, but consists of individual components (...). Who is stopping us from taking individual components that we can make, that we can restore, and that we have enough money and engineering abilities to produce, and, most importantly, that we can prove in operation? (...) Moreover, we can start making products, as Michurin did. That is, implement domestic versions of individual components that are prioritized to achieve technological advantage," Elin said.

As of 2022, the S7 group operated 102 foreign aircraft, he said. Now, due to difficulties with maintenance, their number has decreased.

"Speaking as an operator, there are no forks in road ahead. We proceed from the market situation that all the wonderful plans for the production of [Russian] aircraft are currently contracted by Aeroflot . That is, it is impossible to go to a company and order an aircraft. Therefore, we have only one path left, which we are energetically pursuing - maintaining airworthiness. We are learning to restore and repair spare parts, learning to produce them, and most importantly - learning in constant discussion with the Federal Air Transport Agency how to prove the viability of the use of repaired or manufactured parts," Elin said.

To do this, S7 had to, among other things, create a production department and also acquire several factories, he said.