Bermuda Revokes Licenses Of Over Half Of Russia’s Airline Fleet

Bermudan Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) has suspended the Certificates of Airworthiness (CoA) to all Russian jets registered within the country. Premier and Finance Minister, David Burt, has confirmed that 740 aircraft are on the Bermudan register, owned mainly by Irish lessors. In a statement on Saturday, the BCAA has said:

“International sanctions on the aviation sector have had a significant impact on the ability to sustain safety oversight on Russian operated aircraft on the Bermuda Aircraft Registry. The airworthiness system has been restricted to the point that the Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority is unable to confidently approve these aircraft as being airworthy.”

Many lessors have used the Bermudan register over Russia’s due to uncertainties with the Russian legal system.


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Roughly half of all Russian jets are registered in Bermuda. Photo: Getty Images.

Back behind the Iron Curtain

The Russian government has been scrambling to reregister all foreign-owned aircraft to the country, evading further CoA restrictions and maintenance tracking. Russia has registered 180 jets in the past two weeks, including Aeroflot’s newest A350 jets. Head of the Aircraft Airworthiness at the Federal Air Transport Agency, Valery Kudinov, noted that there were 70 aircraft in the Russian register in late February.

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The move follows the ban on exports of airplanes and aviation equipment from Boeing, Airbus, and China, leaving the country without access to parts to keep aircraft airworthy. Speaking to TASS, Kudinov has said that Russia intends to resolve the situation through the “re-export of components,” possibly through Turkey or India.

Rob Stallard, an analyst at Vertical Research Partners, addressed the issue to EuroWeekly:

“The Russian aviation sector is now on footing that is similar to North Korea and Iran — and similar to where it was under Soviet rule.”

Default risk

Russian carriers have taken advantage of airspace restrictions by hoarding $10 billion of lessor-owned jets. Bloomberg reports that the government supported the move by advising carriers against international flights and returning all aircraft to Russia.



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Russian carriers hope to circumvent bans on the export of Boeing and Airbus equipment by going through other countries. Photo: Getty Images

Lessors have until 28 March to repossess their aircraft, though only 24 jets have been repossessed, all from airports outside of Russia. According to Reuters, several Aeroflot jets have narrowly evaded seizure, including an Airbus A321neo at Cairo airport, as covered by The Air Current. Steve Giordano, Managing Director of Dover, an aircraft repossession firm, explained that the main fear for lessors is that the jets are gone forever.

Independent analyst, Alex Macheras, tweeted about concerns that Russian airlines were “simply not answering the phone,” and many lessors were preparing to write off the aircraft completely. However, Kudinov has told TASS that “part of the fleet will be given back,” with airlines deciding themselves which jets to return.

Speaking to Reuters, aviation advisor Bertrand Grabowski has warned that legal battles between airlines, lessors, and insurers over liability could take up to a decade. Grabowski added:

“There was a perception that Russia was a good risk and capable of absorbing significant capacity that others could not take because of the COVID-19 crisis. For people who had surplus planes on their hands Russia was a venue of last resort. Most of the market also thought Aeroflot was an impeccable credit but forgot the political risk.”

What do you think of BCAA’s decision to revoke CoAs? Will the jets be returned? Let us know what you think in the comments.


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