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Boeing’s Big Bet on Russian Titanium Includes Ties to Sanctioned Oligarch

Plane maker has suspended buying the metal from Russia but must still deal with ties with company linked to sanctioned oligarch and Putin ally

Boeing Co has suspended parts of its business in Russia, but it still has to deal with its relationship to a key titanium supplier led by a sanctioned oligarch who once worked in the KGB with President Vladimir Putin.

The plane maker years ago made a big bet on the country’s titanium, crucial for manufacturing its commercial jets and military aircraft, and Boeing has warned that geopolitical changes could create supply problems in the future.

Boeing said it has halted purchasing Russian titanium since the country’s invasion of Ukraine. It also has closed its engineering offices in Moscow and Kyiv and stopped sending spare plane parts to Russian airlines. But as other Western companies retreat from Russia, Boeing declined to say what it will do about its joint venture with the titanium supplier led by Mr. Putin’s former intelligence colleague, Sergey Chemezov.

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Russia Can’t Fly Without the West—but May Eventually Propel China

Sanctions will devastate Russian aviation by denying it access to Boeing and Airbus parts. They will also give fresh impetus to efforts with China to develop alternatives to Western technology.

Boeing and Airbus dominate global aviation, but China’s Comac wants to challenge the duopoly with new planes. WSJ’s Jon Sindreu explains how supply chains, technology and geopolitics could help the Western aircraft makers to protect key markets. 

Russia’s increasing isolation from the West will leave it looking towards China for alternative economic partnerships. Aviation is a prime example: Badly hit by sanctions, the Russian industry has little choice but to double down on collaboration with its big peer to the East.

Commercial aviation faces ruin in Russia because the U.S. and its allies have blocked the sale of aircraft, parts and technical support to the country. Since the 1990s, Soviet Union-era aircraft have been replaced by Boeing and Airbus models, with domestically built planes currently making up only 17% of the fleet, Cirium data shows. Without new parts, airlines like Aeroflot and S7 Airlines will eventually need to ground their jets.

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Airbus’s Plan to Ramp Up Production of Bestselling Jet Hits Snags

World’s biggest plane maker tempers guidance on plans to dramatically increase production of A320s

Airbus SE tempered expectations for sharply boosting production of its bestselling jet, blaming supply-line challenges that threaten its ambition to rapidly widen a market-share advantage it opened with Boeing Co. BA -2.44% during the pandemic.

The plane maker reported record profit Thursday and said it would reinstate its dividend, benefiting from still-robust demand for its commercial airliners. But it dialed back the likelihood of dramatically boosting future production rates for its A320, the single-aisle rival to Boeing’s 737 MAX.

The 737 MAX suffered a long grounding after two deadly crashes, forcing a short-term halt to production. Then, amid the pandemic, Airbus pressed airline customers to honor contracts, further boosting its share of the single-aisle market.

The European plane maker has been bullish on the aviation sector’s eventual recovery, after pandemic travel restrictions hobbled many airlines. It told suppliers last year to be ready for a quick production ramp-up, promising to push out 65 A320s a month by the summer of 2023. It also said it had asked suppliers to explore whether it could raise that to 75 a month by 2025.

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