Il-76: more than the underdeveloped aftermarket can handle
The Ulyanovsk-based Aviastar-SP aviation facility has recently launched the production of the upgraded Il-76 transport aircraft. The first of the newly produced Il-76MD-90As are expected to be delivered already next year. Nevertheless, despite the considerably fast manufacturing rates of the new generation of aircraft, most models of Il-76s currently in service are more than 15 years old. This means that, considering their popularity in the former USSR and the emerging markets, there is a steady demand for their maintenance and spare parts support. However, meeting this demand can be more of a challenge than it may seem.
The popularity of the multi-purpose strategic airlifter Il-76 in Russia is unarguable. According to the recent statistical data, more than a third (50 of 137) of all freighter aircraft in the Russian commercial aviation market consists of its various modifications. Moreover, Russia operates the largest fleet of Il-76s in the global military aviation segment. At the same time, as most of the global operational fleet of Il-76s (almost 400 aircraft) is rapidly approaching retirement age, the airplanes are in need of constant technical attention and spare parts support. However, providing operators or MROs with spares for this type of aircraft has proven to be a headache for the suppliers: the demand seems to simply be too high.
The popularity of the multi-purpose strategic airlifter Il-76 in Russia is unarguable
“The demand for spare parts for the Soviet-built aircraft has been steadily increasing for some time, and Il-76 is a great example of the trend. The reasons for that are obvious. Firstly, at least 94% of these aircraft in service are older than 15 years. Secondly, there had been a gap of almost two decades in the development of the Russian aviation industry, so there was no possibility of the gradual fleet renewal. Thus, keeping the existing aircraft in operational condition remains the only option for the operators which are fully satisfied with their performance,” says Zilvinas Sadauskas, the CEO of Locatory.com. “It should also be remembered, that Il-76 was originally developed as an aircraft for military purposes and is still largely used by air forces in Russia, the CIS and the emerging markets, such as China, India, Pakistan or Algeria. Despite the growth of investments into new technologies, it’s understandable that they will try to maintain their existing fleet, while gradually switching to fresher products. Unfortunately, locating the necessary parts outside of Russia is becoming increasingly difficult with the aftermarket of Russian aircraft yet to be properly developed.”
However, according to the CEO of Locatory.com, the popularity of the Il-76 outside the Russian borders may in fact suggest the possible solution to the aforementioned maintenance and spare parts scarcity problem. Currently there are more than a hundred of various models of Il-76s kept in storage around Europe, Africa and Asia-Pacific. As the demand for the inventory isn’t likely to drop, tearing down these older airplanes and forming joint stocks or joining already existing ones could turn the operators into suppliers, thus forming the aftermarket. After all, it’s a known fact that an aging aircraft can be worth considerably more parted-out, than if being sold as a whole.
“Of course, operators may lack the necessary contacts for entering the spare parts segment, but there is a way to make such integration easier. It is to do with various platforms, enabling the collaboration of operators and MRO providers all over the world. After all, all players would benefit from more accessible and easier to find spares. The main issue of the spare parts market is almost never the absence of necessary parts, it’s the lack of communication,” explains Zilvinas.