A 747-8 freighter being operated by Russia’s AirBridgeCargo has been returned to its lessors. This is the latest plane to be reclaimed out of over 400 stolen by Russia earlier this month.
The freighter was flown from Hong Kong to California earlier this week after a U.S. judge signed an order permitting the lessors to repossess the plane. The Boeing 747-8 was being leased to the Russian carrier AirBridgeCargo by BOC Aviation, a Singapore-based leasing firm. The repossession order was published on Tuesday, and flight tracking services show that the aircraft landed in the U.S. on 25 March.
This is the latest seizure in an ongoing cat-and-mouse game between Russian airlines and foreign lessors. Currently, over 400 leased planes are trapped in Russia, with a value of over $10 billion. Lessors are in a desperate scramble to try and reclaim their property, but few have succeeded. On 10 March, BOC Aviation reported that 18 of their planes were in the hands of Russian lessees, with a value of $395 million. To make things more complex, Russia’s aviation authority has ordered that all foreign-leased planes be kept in Russia to avoid repossession.
Can the other planes be recovered?
There are still many more leased planes that are yet to be reclaimed from Russia. BOC Aviation says that AirBridgeCargo breached leases on two other 747-8’s when it flew them back to Russia. The lessor had given explicit instructions for the planes to stay grounded in China after their insurance coverage was cancelled. One of the aircraft was without an airworthiness certificate, which was suspended when Bermuda revoked all Russian certifications earlier this month. The two aircraft currently remain in Russia, according to flight tracking services.
The deadline has now passed for European firms to cancel their leasing contracts with Russia, and few have been able to reclaim their stolen property. The Russian news agency Interfax reported last week that 78 planes had been seized whilst abroad. Opportunities to repossess aircraft have been few, with Russia keeping foreign planes within its borders. However, that may change, with Aeroflot this week announcing it will restart international flights. Whether lessors can recover what was lost remains to be seen.
Do you think lessors will be able to reclaim their stolen planes? Let us know in the comments below!