“How Russia Maintains Its Collection of Western Aircraft”

Listen up, folks! Remember that time when a Ural Airlines jet made a pit stop in Yekaterinburg on Nov. 14 last year? Yep, that big ol’ bird was just chilling on the tarmac. But hang on! Three days later, a top-notch, fancy-pants navigation gadget worth more than a quarter of a million bucks, made by that big-shot U.S. company Northrop Grumman, got delivered right to that plane. Russian customs were like, “Yeah, we saw that!”

So, fast forward a week to Nov. 24, and that plane was up, up, and away to Moscow. Since then? It’s been zipping people around Russia and Central Asia like there’s no tomorrow. Fancy flight tracking gadgets back this up!

Now, here’s the juicy bit. Despite the West wagging their fingers at Russia, saying, “No buying parts for your planes,” Ural Airlines pulled a sneaky one. Since Russia’s little adventure into Ukraine in February 2022, they’ve scooped up over 20 of these American-made gizmos. How do we know? The customs dudes spilled the beans!

And it doesn’t stop there. Between May last year and June this year, while the West was giving Russia the cold shoulder, a whopping $1.2 billion in airplane parts found their way to Russian airlines. Mind blown, right? We’re talking essential stuff like cockpit gadgets, landing gear, and even some laugh-out-loud items like coffee makers and, wait for it… toilet seats! 😂

These parts took a little detour through pals in places like Tajikistan, UAE, Turkey, China, and Kyrgyzstan. Guess what? None of these pals are playing by the West’s rules. The $1.2 billion figure? That’s probably just the tip of the iceberg!

Oleg Panteleev, a big brain at the AviaPort aviation think-tank, told Reuters that after a few stumbles, Russian airlines figured it out. “First, everyone was running around like headless chickens,” he said, “but after a few months, we found new paths and even scored some deals!” Boom! Problem solved.

The Deputy Chief of Ural Airlines played it cool and mysterious, saying, “Why we get our parts? Nah, that’s our little secret.”

After going through the list, Northrop Grumman raised their hands, “We didn’t sell any parts directly to Russia.” They insisted they’re playing by the rules. Meanwhile, the U.S. government huffed and puffed about how their rules have given Russia’s airline business a major headache.

The EU chimed in too, saying they’re on the lookout to make sure no one’s pulling a fast one.

Sure, sanctions threw a wrench in Russia’s flying plans. Some Russian airlines even cannibalized their own planes for parts. Ouch! And get this, S7 Airlines ditched their budget airline dream because they couldn’t snag new Airbus planes.

But guess what? Russian airlines are still soaring. By May this year, they had a fleet of 541 Western planes, just like before all the drama. And boy, they’re busy! They ferried 10.1 million passengers in June alone. Without the Western planes, Russia would’ve been in a tight spot, considering they’ve got only about 150 of their own passenger planes.

Trying to track down how these parts are making their way to Russia is like playing detective. Many shipments take a wild roundabout way, hopping from one country to another. It’s all cloak and dagger stuff!

One Russian airline even seems to be keeping it in the family to get their hands on these parts. Nordwind Airlines? Their owner, Karine Bukrey, has a hubby, Ramazan Akpinar, who owns Ramses Turizm in sunny Turkey. Hmm… interesting, right?

All in all, it’s a wild ride trying to figure out this airplane parts mystery. Everyone’s got a tale to tell, and some are more twisty-turny than others. But one thing’s for sure: where there’s a will, there’s a way, especially when planes are involved! 🛫🔍

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