NEW YORK — An analysis by the Wall Street Journal suggests that Russia's limited access to parts, software, and technical expertise required for essential maintenance on hundreds of commercial aircraft has raised safety concerns among industry executives and regulators. 

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Western countries closed airspace to Russian planes and imposed sanctions, blocking parts, services, and technology from Russia's commercial aviation fleet.

Boeing and Airbus planes make up around 77% of Russia's 696 in-service aircraft. These modern aircraft typically require frequent software updates, access to troubleshooting and maintenance guides, skilled engineers, and spare parts for replacing aging or malfunctioning components. However, for over a year, US and European sanctions have cut off Russian carriers from plane manufacturers, maintenance partners, and key parts suppliers.

Hundreds of Russian aircraft have reached maintenance milestones without access to these resources, and more planes are due for regular maintenance this year. If proper checks are not conducted, maintaining and keeping aircraft in operation becomes more difficult, according to Karl Steeves, CEO of aviation maintenance software company TrustFlight Ltd.

Due to sanctions, Russia's aviation industry has had to perform critical checks that were previously outsourced to foreign companies, relying on depleting stocks of spare parts and lacking manufacturer input. Russian airlines have also lost access to crucial online manuals and troubleshooting documentation provided by Boeing and Airbus, as well as regular software updates and improvements.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency, has downgraded Russia's safety assessment, classifying the country's aviation sector as a "significant safety concern" due to non-compliance with international safety and oversight standards. Russian airlines are now looking for alternative strategies to secure maintenance for their aircraft, including using third-party providers in countries like Iran and Turkey.