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By Richard Evans, Senior Consultant – Ascend by Cirium
This week has seen widespread comment after it was reported that Aeroflot Russian Airlines had flown one of its fleet of A330-300s to Iran in order to perform maintenance on the aircraft. This is to be conducted by Mahan Air at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International airport.
Mahan Air is a sanctioned organisation with sanctioned individuals, operating in a sanctioned country. In fact, organisations providing support to Mahan Air have themselves been sanctioned by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). According to our maintenance database, Aeroflot previously had their engines overhauled by Rolls-Royce Engine Overhaul Services (EOS) in Derby, under TotalCare.
Mahan Air, like other Iranian airlines, has developed the ability to keep aircraft flying, despite these sanctions. Mahan Air presumably has the capability to do airframe maintenance on the A330/A340, either using spares that have been acquired despite sanctions, or by using illegally produced copies of such spare parts. However, it has no known ability to undertake engine overhauls on the Rolls-Royce Trent 700, which powers all of Aeroflot’s fleet of A330s.
Mahan Air has operated A340-600s since 2015, which are powered by the Trent 500, which shares some similarities to the Trent 700, but no commonality at a part number level.
The airline acquired seven A340-600s originally, circumventing sanctions by secretly acquiring aircraft that had been sold to an Iraqi company and flown to Baghdad. Six of the aircraft entered service with the airline. This fell to five aircraft in service in 2021, and there are now only three shown by Cirium’s Tracked Utilisation dataset as being in-service. This suggests these aircraft are gradually being cannibalised for spares, with the engines swapped around until they are no longer serviceable.
Mahan Air has never operated A330s, but Iran Air had two second-hand A330-200s, powered by Trent 700s, delivered in 2017. The sanctions shutter came down again in 2018, before more new-build examples could be delivered.
Cirium has no record of the maintenance provider for these aircraft, and it appears unlikely there is any ability to perform heavy maintenance on these engines at present.
These two aircraft have flown around 17,000 to 19,000 hours since 2017, and remain in service today. They may never have needed a full performance restoration engine shop visit in that period. It is likely that Iran Air acquired at least one or two spare engines at the same time they took the aircraft, so could have swapped engines on the aircraft in the intervening time to keep the aircraft in service.
In conclusion, it appears very unlikely that Aeroflot or Mahan Air will be able to perform major engine overhauls on Trent engines. Thus, when any spare engines are used up, the Aeroflot fleet will be cannibalised. However, in a benign engine operating environment like Russia, engines could well last 20,000-25,000 hours between overhauls, or 7-8 years at their current utilisation of around 3,000 hours a year. Thus, Aeroflot may be able to maintain A330 operations for several years to come, depending on how many engines it possesses, and when they last underwent shop visits.
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