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Russia Signs Pipeline to Convert 'Abandoned' Planes

Putin Lays Out Framework for Foreign Aircraft "Theft by Conversion" 

Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a new law into being that gives domestic airlines the ability to register rights to foreign aircraft leased by Russian companies, and issuing domestic airworthiness certificates to them.

Like many carriers around the world, Russian airlines often rely on leased aircraft to defray some of the cost and hassle of ownership and maintenance. Lessors outside the country face difficulties in recovering their property in Russia, more than 500 planes worth more than $10 billion in total. Since sanctions began to impact operations abroad and foreign governments have proven willing to seize equipment from Russian owners around the world, domestic airlines have been hesitant to allow their leased aircraft outside the country. The new law allows for continued use of foreign-owned aircraft left behind by companies that have discontinued their operations in the country while providing a route to obtain domestic airworthiness certificates.

Along with the law, a few sundry amendments to Russian Air Code will set out a system of certification centers and test laboratories under the Transport Ministry. The moves won't likely prove too effective at demobilizing the Russian aviation ecosystem for now, but things could change gradually if the sanctions continue in perpetuity.

The supplies of spares and maintenance equipment for aircraft in similarly punished locales have been kept flying through a delicate dance of parts swapping, salvage operations, and boneyard hunting. Unlike North Korea and Iran, however, Russia has a far stronger aviation manufacturing base at home, as well as a large trading partner right next door. Even tougher for those aiming to ground the fleet, Russian networks and friendships remain intact around the world, and the country's recent experiences with less-than-legal procurement methods during the immediate post-soviet era could very well combine to keep aircraft flying far longer than pundits hope. 



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