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Mon, Mar 21, 2022

Russian Cargo Airline Halts Operations

Grounds Boeing Fleet After Losing Safety Cert, Sanctions

Russia's biggest cargo airline, the Volga-Dnepr Group, has ended all flights using its fleet of Boeing aircraft until further notice. 

Volga, among its range of smaller subsidiary lines, has operated a fleet of 18 Boeing 747s, with 6 737s until now, one of the largest cargo operations in Russia. Now, they have issued a statement on a stop for operations of 2 subsidiaries. AirBridgeCargo and Atran are now stopped due to taking a double hit of sanctions and a termination of their safety certificates issued by the Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority. 

The stop effectively ends all Boeing operations within the company, leaving it reliant upon its Russian-made An-124 and Il-76 fleet. Those aircraft have been key to Volga's branding as the go-to for large, oversized cargo thanks to the impressively capacious interior of the An-124. The company has been a contractor for Boeing in the past, moving supplies to its plants in the US, which could impact production stateside now that the line is blocked from American airspace. Before the sanctions, in a request for 6 flights was filed by Volga to move supplies from a Florida supplier to Boeing's manufacturing facility. The loss is just one a thousands of small, heretofore unknown knock-on effects of the sanctions and airspace closures. 

The exact owners of the now-grounded Boeings vary, with some clustered into groups due to their original orders. A recent law has allowed operators of leased aircraft to recertify and assume ownership if their foreign owners have left the country, somewhat reminiscent of a large-scale default or theft by conversion. Depending on the lessors, Volga may be able to avail itself of the pathway to ownership, but that would only begin to solve their Boeing problems. Sanctions have also cut off the official parts supply to Russian territory, leaving the Boeings high and dry without any way to ensure they remain in good overall health. Running the aircraft into a state of unairworthiness would likely outweigh the brief financial benefit of continued operation. So Volga-Dnepr has left things on pause, waiting for the winds to shift back in their favor. 



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