Russian Cargo Airline to Refurbish Old Planes Amid International Sanctions

Russia’s AirBridgeCargo, which was hit with international sanctions last year after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, is refurbishing old planes to resume flights. According to sources close to the Volga-Dnepr group and the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) as reported by the Russian Business Daily (RBC), the airline is planning to restart its operations using an Il-96 aircraft, which will be repaired and updated by UAC.

Before the sanctions were imposed, AirBridgeCargo occupied 42% of the Russian air cargo market with a fleet made up of 17 Boeing 747s and one Boeing 777.

The sanctions barred aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. from doing business in Russia. According to Boeing, it hasn’t provided parts, maintenance, or technical support to Russian airlines and maintenance companies since the US sanctions were imposed early last year.

Aircraft require a strict maintenance regime, older planes need intensive services, and all aircraft need regular software updates. Without access to these, airlines risk flight safety. AirBridgeCargo suspended flights in March 2022, less than a month after Russia’s attack in Ukraine. The refurbished Il-96 plane will be its first Russian aircraft.

AirBridgeCargo is under the Volga-Dnepr group. The group’s founder and former president Alexey Isaikin exited the group and transferred control to an executive team after he was hit by UK sanctions last year.

Photos of the first Il-96-400T in AirBridgeCargo’s colors have appeared on telegram channels, reportedly taken at the airfield of the Voronezh Joint-Stock Aircraft Building Company (VASO), which is part of the UAC perimeter. The report from the RBC says that the specific Russian plane in the photo “is not equipped with engines or a stabilizer.” Another Il-96-400T is expected to be added to the fleet soon, according to sources.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade and UAC announced plans to repair and return to service 11 Russian-made aircraft for 15.4 billion rubles in the latter half of last year as an attempt to bolster its heavily-sanctioned aviation industry. Included in the list of aircraft were two Il-96-400Ts. The Volga-Dnepr group was identified as its potential operator. 

Information for this briefing was found via RBC, Cargo Forwarder Global, Twitter, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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