October 2, 2022
Bermuda Withdraws Russian Aircraft Airworthiness Certification

Bermuda Withdraws Russian Aircraft Airworthiness Certification

DALLAS – The Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) announced the suspension of its airworthiness certifications for airplanes operated in Russia.

The aircraft in question are also banned from the British island territory’s airspace. Many Russian airlines are impacted by this decision, as most Russian aircraft are registered with the BCAA.

In a statement, the BCAA explained that the sanctions against Russia impacted its “ability to sustain safety oversight on Russian operated aircraft on the Bermuda Aircraft Registry.” The organization is, therefore, “unable to confidently approve these aircraft as being airworthy.” Indeed, manufacturers are now unable to provide aircraft parts to Russian operators.

Consequently, the BCAA “has provisionally suspended all Certificates of Airworthiness of those aircraft operating under the Article 83bis Agreement between Bermuda and the Russian Federation.” The decision has been in effect since Saturday at 23:59 UTC.

As we can see the aircraft’s registration starts with VP-B, it means it is registered in Bermuda. Photo: John Leivatidis/Airways

The Impact on Russian Airlines

A Certificate of Airworthiness is a document that grants authorization to operate an aircraft in flight. It is granted by the country where the aircraft is registered. It is therefore a crucial document for airlines, as they don’t have the right to operate aircraft without it.

The Bermuda decision will have a significant impact on Russia’s aviation industry. Among the nearly 1,000 aircraft operated commercially in Russia, about 750 of them are registered in Bermuda, according to aviation consulting firm IBA. The most impacted airlines are Aeroflot (SU), Pobeda (DP), and S7.

However, the Russian government is reportedly looking for a solution for its airlines. Russia wants to allow airlines to keep any leased aircraft and register them in Russia. This would permit airlines to operate with a Russian Certificate of Airworthiness. This is a serious issue for Western aircraft leasing companies, which are scrambling to get their aircraft back before the March 28 deadline.

Even if airlines still fly within Russia, they can’t fly internationally for fear of repossession by aircraft lessors. Additionally, airspace closures worldwide mean Russian airlines can’t fly over most western countries.

This aircraft is also registered in Bermuda, as well as most of the Russian airlines fleet. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Article 83bis Agreement

At first, it seems strange that so many Russian aircraft are registered in Bermuda. Enter the Article 83bis agreement between Bermuda and Russia.

Article 83bis is an amendment to the Chicago Convention that outlines a legal framework allowing for the transfer of duties and functions from the State of Registry of an aircraft to the state of the operator. Basically, it is designed to assist in the management of airworthiness between the two States.

According to the BCAA, this article helps with “the structuring of cross-border aviation transactions by providing a mechanism for ensuring safety oversight of an aircraft that is operated from another State.” Two countries can decide to sign an Article 83bis agreement that allows airlines to register their aircraft in the other country and obtain advantages for flight crew members’ licenses and leasing prices.

Bermuda has Article 83bis agreements with Russia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. It explains why so many Russian-operated aircraft are registered in Bermuda.

With the decision, Bermuda follows suit with most western countries, banning Russian aircraft from its airspace and severing the strong links Russia has with Bermuda.

Featured image: Aeroflot is Russia’s major carrier. Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

Aviation enthusiast and private pilot student, I am fascinated by the aviation industry.

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