Economic sanctions used for foreign policy purposes are economic penalties – such as prohibiting trade, stopping financial transactions or barring economic and military assistance – used to influence a nation and provide incentives for obedience with the rule of law or other governing rules and regulations.

Given the extent and complexity of global interdependence in the international goods and tourist traffic, sanctions not only affect the sanctioned nation, but also have repercussions all over the world. 

The aviation industry is particularly affected by the sanctions imposed upon Russia:

  • Closed airspaces over Russia and the Ukraine war zone
  • Airspace closure for Russian aircraft en route to western states
  • No import of spare parts for western types of aircraft in Russia
  • Terminated leasing contracts for Russian aircraft, no return of leased planes
  • Stagnant or a lack of tourism and business travel
  • Etc.

The economic impact of a non-existing passenger and air cargo traffic – which is only possible using alternative routes – is obvious for all parties concerned: higher costs, lower goods turnover, a lack of passenger and tourism traffic.

What impact do the sanctions imposed on Russia have on aviation safety?

No other industry sector is as strictly regulated as aviation. Precise maintenance regulations and intervals specify the renewal of aircraft parts and components and help ensure that aviation continues to provide the safest means of transport. However, Russian airlines and aircraft owners are no longer able to comply with these strict regulations. Due to sanctions and EU export bans for aerospace technologies and goods, much needed parts and components for western types of aircraft (which comprise the majority of the fleet of aircraft in Russia) can no longer be procured. Airbus and Boeing were among the first to suspend deliveries of spare parts, technical support, and maintenance services.
Meanwhile, aircraft manufacturers have raised safety alarms due to the lack of spare parts. There are reports that airlines are stripping grounded aircraft (of which there are plenty given the low level of air traffic in Russia) as well as aircraft that were not returned to western lessors to keep other aircraft airworthy. One can take a wild guess how long this “supply” will last. Another concern is that aircraft subject to irregular maintenance intervals or non-compliance with international maintenance standards quickly lose their safety certificates. Besides subjective and objective safety concerns, this poses a problem of possible landing bans and further restrictions.
In addition to technical regulations, there are certain requirements for pilots and flight crews which ensure the validity of their license, their knowledge and skills of operating procedures. Due to a large number of fleets having been grounded, pilots and flight crews lack the routine with specific flying procedures. Pilots, for example, are reduced to logging the required amount of flight times in simulator trainings, which normally are only an add-on to real flights. They cannot use these trainings over an extended period of time to maintain their level of flying skills and the validity of their license.

Aviation safety, whether in the air or on the ground, is a top priority

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has therefore defined rules for safety standards and recommended practices. These are implemented on a national level via, e.g., the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Similarly, there are standards and regulations for the airworthiness of aircraft, for aircraft operation, and for training and licensing of flight crew members.
While passenger numbers are increasing, the number of casualties is decreasing. Technical improvements, rules and regulations that stipulate maintenance and licensing procedures for aircraft, the development of airport infrastructure and air traffic control as well as training of personnel give us reasons to be optimistic about a safe future.

Ilse Konheisner-Holub

Group Practice Leader Aviation

Hotline available 24/7: +43 5 04 04 200

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