In a further sign of a country looking like it’s in crisis, Russia’s flagship air carrier, Aeroflot, is reportedly operating “at least nine planes without brakes” and has issued safety warnings about the problem, according to Aerotime and Moscow Times. The challenge stems from war sanctions preventing access to maintenance parts for foreign aircraft.
Worn-out brakes on Airbus and Boeing aircraft cannot be serviced due to sanctions imposed following the invasion of Ukraine, which also mean airspaces above United States, United Kingdom, and EU are closed to Russian planes.
1. Planes wanting to turn in a circle
The answer to the brake issue, recommended by Aeroflot, is for pilots to turn the brakes off, triggering an exclamation-riddled safety warning to pilots about planes wanting to turn in a circle when you turn the brakes off on one side, obtained and published by Aviatorschina:
“The aircraft will tend to turn to the side where the brakes are not deactivated. Pay attention to this fact, especially when landing on a wet runway with a crosswind!!! There are restrictions on the width of the runway. The risk of overrunning the runway!!!”
The safety warning about the planes slower on one side wanting to turn in a circle would be comic, if it weren’t so terrifying.
2. Risk of overrunning the runway
According to airport runway requirements and regulations, larger bodied aircraft need a runway at least 2,400 m (7,900 ft) at sea level. International widebody flights, which more fuel and so are heavier, may also have landing requirements of 3,200 m (10,500 ft) or more and takeoff requirements of 4,000 m (13,000 ft).
Data from Index Mundi dated 2021, reports less than 10% of Russian airports with paved runways over 3,047 metres.
3. At least nine planes affected
At least nine aircraft including four Airbus aircraft (A320, A330, and two A321s) and five Boeing 777s are known to be affected among a fleet of 295 and this since the end of July 2023.
Not being allowed to access parts from original equipment manufacturers, Russia has been sending its majority (74% according to Aerotime) Airbus and Boeing fleet to Iran – a country whose experience of similar sanctions is supposed to have given it “extensive knowledge in repairing aircraft under such circumstances.”
4. Other malfunctions likely
The temporary “turn-off” fix for the brakes and subsequent safety warning is alarming. What’s worse is that the brake problem could well be just one among many safety issues faced by the fleet after the news uncovered by investigative site Proek, also reported by Aerotime that, the national carrier had “instructed staff to stop logging malfunctions”.
Novaya Gazeta reported back in May 2023 that Russian aviation was in trouble, with sanctions causing cowboy approaches to technical issues, such as simply washing instead of replacing clogged fuel filters. Meanwhile, customers are being charged higher and higher prices to fly in essentially unmaintained planes.