LONDON – Whilst it has been a sad day for the world with the Ukraine Crisis, aviation has had it hard as well, and this crisis has ramifications for the future of the industry.
From nearly seeing a Ukrainian aviation marvel (the Antonov AN-225 Mriya) getting destroyed, to sanctions on airlines and more, it’s been a rough day.
This piece will recap what has happened over the course of today as well as what the future may hold for the industry as a result.
Recap Of Today’s Events
In the early hours of this morning, Russian forces began their invasion into Ukraine following a televised speech announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin (BBC, 2022).
Such news of this became general knowledge the day before, when “civilian flights were restricted inside Ukraine due to the conflict with Russia” (RadarBox, 2022).
As the fighting began, and the airspace became more volatile, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the UK placed a warning to airlines to make sure they “avoid Ukrainian airspace” (Field, 2022).
On the aviation front, Ukrainian military bases were beginning to be raided, including Gostomel Airport, home to Antonov Design Bureau (Field, 2022a).
Luckily, the AN-225 Mriya was not destroyed by the “bunch of Russian MI-8 helicopters earlier on today” and maybe, the aircraft will live to fly another day (Field, 2022b & Field, 2022c).
Such measures taken out by Russia today have resulted in a swift response by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who announced a package of bigger sanctions.
One aspect of that was to take the decision to ban Russian carrier Aeroflot from operating into the UK, of which the carrier currently operates flights to London Heathrow and occasionally offers charter flights for the football team Manchester United (Field, 2022d).
Another key highlight from today was that a “Ukrainian military plane crashed near Kyiv with 14 people on board”, with the “aircraft [falling] about 20 kilometers south of the Ukrainian capital” (Orban, 2022).
This, of course, would have been a provocation from the Russian Army.
A lot more happened on the ground, than in the air, but as The Air Current Editor-in-Chief Jon Ostrower says, there is always an aviation angle. And here is why:
Russian Customers of Western-Made Aircraft
Before we move onto the overall impact, it is key to note, as mentioned by Richard Schuurman of AirInsight, it is pretty clear that after today’s events, Russian carriers will not receive Western-made aircraft.
According to Schuurman, there are around 34 Boeing aircraft in the backlog for the following carriers:
- 28 737 MAXs for UTair.
- Six 777 Freighters for VolgaDnepr.
On the Airbus front, there are 14 undelivered A350s for Aeroflot and 14 A220-300s for Ilyushin Finance (Schuurman, 2022).
Whilst this may be a drop in the ocean compared to the entirety of the backlog that Airbus and Boeing have from Russian operators, they do represent significant orders made in the past.
For Aeroflot in particular, the A350 is a big part of its fleet renewal and expansion, as well as with the Boeing 777 too. Any future orders for those types won’t happen with the Russian carrier, at least for the next few years to a decade.
This Conflict Will Change The Appearance of the Industry
As Jon Ostrower of The Air Current (2022) mentions, “the threat of increased conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the resulting fall-out leaves the civil aerospace industry acutely vulnerable to everything from astronomical jet fuel prices and disrupted airspace to the potential for the full-scale derailment of commercial aircraft production”.
With sanctions on the way from world leaders, it “sets up both a challenge for a booming Russian domestic market and an opportunity for its homegrown single-aisle to eventually fill the gap”, with Irkut being potentially placed in an ideal situation for its MC-21-300 aircraft (ibid).
Ostrower raises a good point in his analysis piece in the sense that we will now begin to see a complete split within the world of aerospace.
And that can be frightening for the supply chain for manufacturers in the West, as well as potentially losing customers in China and the Russia & CIS regions moving forward.
With the FAA also prohibiting “US airlines from operating over [the] entirety of Ukrainian, Belarusian airspace, along with parts of Western Russia”, it becomes clearer how this split is going to form (Slotnick, 2022).
It will be the formulation of geopolitical trickery that has to happen but will be a detriment to the industry at the same time.
And this will become the new norm moving forward.
This invasion is of course still in its early days, but more could still happen as the hours, days, weeks, and months pass.
What we do know is that there is no turning back and that off the back of COVID, the aerospace industry is going to have to prepare itself for another shunt.
Around a week ago, AviationSource published some analysis about whether we will see a Kabul Airport 2.0 in terms of evacuation (Field, 2022e).
With Ukrainian airspace shut down very quickly, we may not see this influx of evacuees by air, but rather by land, especially with the roads of Kyiv being rammed with traffic in the early hours of this morning.
However, for those that decided to stay, those people could form the foundation of evacuating by air.
But of course, such a situation is still volatile and could change at any point. With no flights in or out at the moment, this seems unlikely.
Moving forward, it is of hope that the population of Ukraine are safe and get such passages out of the country where and when they can. On behalf of the team at AviationSource, our hearts go out to those affected by this crisis and we hope that a solution is made as soon as possible.
- BBC (2022), Ukraine conflict: What we know about the invasion, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-60504334 [Last Accessed 24/2/22]
- RadarBox (2022), Ukraine-Russia Crisis: Aircraft Avoiding Ukrainian Airspace Amid Tensions, https://www.radarbox.com/blog/ukraine-russia-crisis-aircraft-avoiding-ukrainian-airspace-amid-tensions [Last Accessed 24/2/22]
- Field, J. (2022), UK Government Tells CAA To Make Sure Airlines Avoid Ukrainian Airspace, AviationSource, https://aviationsourcenews.com/news/uk-government-tells-caa-to-make-sure-airlines-avoid-ukrainian-airspace/ [Last Accessed 24/2/22]
- Field, J. (2022a), Ukraine Crisis: Antonov’s Base in Gostomel Seized by Russian Paratroopers, AviationSource, https://aviationsourcenews.com/news/ukraine-crisis-antonovs-base-in-hostomel-seized-by-russian-paratroopers/ [Last Accessed 24/2/22]
- Field, J. (2022b), Ukraine Crisis: What’s Going On With the Antonov AN-225 Mriya, AviationSource, https://aviationsourcenews.com/news/ukraine-crisis-whats-going-on-with-the-antonov-an-225-mriya/ [Last Accessed 24/2/22]
- Field, J. (2022c), Ukraine Crisis: Antonov AN-225 Mriya NOT Destroyed, AviationSource, https://aviationsourcenews.com/news/ukraine-crisis-antonov-an-225-mriya-not-destroyed/ [Last Accessed 24/2/22]
- Field, J. (2022d), Ukraine Crisis: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson Bans Aeroflot, AviationSource, https://aviationsourcenews.com/news/ukraine-crisis-uk-prime-minister-boris-johnson-bans-aeroflot/ [Last Accessed 24/2/22]
- Orban, A. (2022), Ukrainian Military Plane Crashes Near Kiev With 14 People on Board, Aviation24, https://www.aviation24.be/miscellaneous/accidents/ukrainian-military-plane-crashes-near-kiev-with-14-people-on-board/amp/ [Last Accessed 24/2/22]
- Schuurman, R. (2022), Backlog for Russian Airlines, Twitter, https://twitter.com/rschuur_aero/status/1496918618550026240 [Last Accessed 24/2/22]
- Ostrower, J. (2022), Ukraine-Russia Conflict Could Derail Global Aerospace, The Air Current, https://theaircurrent.com/tac-explains/ukraine-russia-conflict-derail-global-aerospace/ [Last Accessed 24/2/22]
- Slotnick, D. (2022), FAA Announcement on Sanctions, Twitter, https://twitter.com/David_Slotnick/status/1496930637823021068 [Last Accessed 24/2/22]
- Field, J. (2022e), Ukraine Tensions: Could We See A Kabul Airport 2.0?, AviationSource, https://aviationsourcenews.com/analysis/ukraine-tensions-could-we-see-a-kabul-airport-2-0/ [Last Accessed 24/2/22]