DALLAS — Russian cargo airline group Volga-Dnepr Airlines (VI) has officially approached the Government of Canada to initiate discussions regarding the return of an Antonov AN-124 aircraft that has been immobilized in the country since the commencement of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The airframe, registered as RA-82078, is one of the 11 units owned by VI and is currently immobilized by the Canadian Government at Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ) since February 27, 2022, the day when Canada prohibited the entry of all Russian-made or registered airplanes into their airspace.
A year and a half later, Volga-Dnepr Airlines has now delivered a pre-arbitration notice to Canada, presenting a proposition to settle the disagreement and retrieve the aircraft back to Russia for it to resume its operations with the cargo airline.
Representatives of VI said, “If the dispute is not resolved within six months of Canada’s receipt of the notification, Volga-Dnepr Airlines will formally initiate arbitration. We remain open to negotiation with Canadian representatives to resolve the issue and return the aircraft.”
Dramatic Situation at Volga-Dnepr Airlines
In February 2022, the European Union, as well as the United States and Canada, among others, prohibited the entry of Russian-registered airplanes into their airspace, and implemented severe sanctions on Russian carriers, preventing them from importing foreign aircraft spare parts to complete the maintenance of their fleets.
Given that, in most cases, the decision to ban Russian flights was unprecedented and immediate, hundreds of Russian-registered aircraft were suddenly stranded at foreign airports without the ability to fly back to Russia and remain grounded even today.
The lack of spare parts and resources has forced AirBridgeCargo (RU), the largest subsidiary of the Volga-Dnepr Group, to indefinitely ground all of its Boeing 747 fleet due to their compliance with the safety regulations of Russia and other countries. Since the start of 2023, the company is now solely relying on two Antonov AN-124 airframes and three Ilyushin IL-76 units.
Spotted at Voronezh-Pridacha Airport, the main assembly site for Tupolev and Ilyushin aircraft, an IL96-400T rolled out fully painted in AirBridgeCargo colors, even though it will be eventually transferred to Sky Gates Airlines (U3).
Featured image: Fabrizio Spicuglia/Airways