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A Russian airline that ditched an Airbus A320 in a Siberian wheat field last year is abandoning plans to rescue the jet

Taylor Rains   

A Russian airline that ditched an Airbus A320 in a Siberian wheat field last year is abandoning plans to rescue the jet
  • Ural Airlines has abandoned plans to rescue its Airbus A320 stranded in a Siberian wheat field.
  • High costs, logistical challenges, and a lack of support from Airbus influenced the decision.

An Airbus A320 passenger jet operated by Russian carrier Ural Airlines has been sitting in a Siberian wheat field since September.

A hydraulic failure caused a low-fuel situation, and the pilot made the decision to ditch the jet instead of continuing to the diversion airport.

None of the nearly 170 people onboard were injured and customers were offered about $1,100 in compensation.

Ural initially planned to retrieve and repair the stranded plane for re-entry to service — even posting progress updates on Telegram late last year — but money and logistics have forced the airline to jump ship, an airline representative told the Russian newspaper Izvestia on Thursday.

"We assess all the risks and are inclined to not use this aircraft in commercial operation, taking into account the fact that in the current conditions there is no support from the manufacturer Airbus," Ural told the outlet.

Ural said it had considered several ways to fly the aircraft out, like taking off from a frozen runway available during the Russian winter or constructing a new one using slabs.

The soil density, however, made the former nearly impossible, the airline told Izvestia. Ural further said the materials needed for the latter would be difficult to transport to the remote field from the south Russian city of Novosibirsk, some 120 miles away,

The high cost associated with the plane's upkeep was also a driver in abandoning its rescue. Ural told Izvestia it has already spent 10.5 million rubles (about $112,000) on expenses like maintaining the A320, renting the land, putting up fencing, and hiring security.

Ural told Izvestia it still plans to remove the plane — but likely not in one piece, looking at options like disassembling the jet and taking it out in sections via helicopter.

The loss of Ural's A320 leaves it with 25 of the Airbus narrowbodies in its fleet, according to Planespotters. The airline also operates four Airbus A319s and 22 Airbus A321s for a total of 51 planes.

Russian carriers are already pulling from a low stock of airplanes amid Western sanctions preventing the country from receiving Boeing and Airbus jets, so losing one in the current climate could be a significant financial hit to Ural.

However, it's likely the airline could salvage the much-needed parts to use on other aircraft as sanctions also prevent Russian carriers from receiving spare inventory.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russian airlines have turned to seedy methods to build their maintenance stockpiles and keep passenger planes flying, like buying secondhand parts from China and Iran and "cannibalizing" their own fleets.



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