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Sun, Apr 23, 2023

Parking Tab for An-124 Stranded at YYZ Tops $330,000

Schadenfreude Among the Maple Leaves

The Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) is charging a stranded Antonov An-124 cargo aircraft an exorbitant parking fee of nearly one-penny-per-second.

The 226-foot-long cargo plane has been stuck at YYZ since Canada closed its airspace to Russian-owned aircraft on 27 February 2022.

Finding parking for the mammoth aircraft, one of only 26 left in the world, was a relatively simple matter. Liberating it from Justin Trudeau’s nation has proved anything but.

The big Antonov’s fate evokes comparison to that of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian citizen who lived the final 18-years of his life stranded—for reasons political and asinine—in Terminal 1 of Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG).

From 1988 until 2006, Karimi Nasseri existed in a hellish legal-limbo, wandering the vastness of Europe’s third-largest airport until suffering a heart-attack and dying ignominiously in CDG’s Terminal 2F

Notwithstanding the inconvenient fact that the stranded An-124 and its owners have no ties to Moscow, a spokeswoman for Canada’s Transportation Ministry stated unequivocally that the country’s Parliament has no immediate intentions of lifting the restrictions by which the aircraft is constrained to remain—languishing, disused and moldering—on Canadian soil.

The An-124 is parked near YYZ’s east field-boundary, upon one of the few stretches of the airport’s ramp sturdy enough to support its tremendous bulk. Parking fees, which last year increased from 55 to 58-cents-per-minute, currently total north of $330,000.

YYZ airport officials are as eager to be rid of the An-124 as Volga-Dnepr—the Russian cargo airline by which the jet is owned—is eager to have it back. The Canadian government has repeatedly denied Volga-Dnepr’s requests to allow a small contingent of its mechanics to service the stranded Antonov, which is badly in need of sustaining maintenance—after the fashion of an automobile left overlong to idleness and the elements.

In addition to running the aircraft’s quartet of 51,000 lbf-thrust Lotarev D-18T high-bypass turbofan engines, the stranded An-124’s electrical system, avionics, and specialty installations (cargo-door actuators, load-management systems, etc.) need to be alternately powered up, spun up, and cycled. What’s more, the aircraft’s 24 tires must be rotated before they flat-spot unto uselessness.

Un-hangared and exposed in perpetuity to rain, snow, wind, and concentrations of Molson and LaBatt’s vapors impossible to calculate and distressing to comprehend, the Antonov’s livery and protective coatings risk serious and lasting damage.

Bill Clark, a lawyer specializing in aviation, looks upon the An-124’s plight, opining the aircraft, which masses in the neighborhood of 400,000 pounds, is “going to become a giant paperweight.” Mr. Clark’s Toronto-based firm, YYZLaw, was hired by an aircraft broker seeking to keep the An-124 grounded as long as possible.

Should Canada opt to grant Volga-Dnepr permission to reclaim the An-124, Mr. Clark asserted his client will demand the long-decaying machine meet Canadian aircraft standards prior to being allowed to fly. Clark noted the fact Volga-Dnepr’s expenses and travails will increase the longer the An-124 sits. “We’re just sitting here,” he explained, “watching this plane rust away.”

The Antonov An-124 landed in Toronto on 27 February 2022, three days after the commencement of hostilities in Ukraine. The aircraft arrived from China laden with personal protective equipment it had been contracted to deliver to the people of Canada. Before the Antonov’s crew could turn the mighty jet and get airborne, Canada closed its airspace to Russian-owned aircraft.

Ironically, the entirety of Antonov’s An-124 fleet was built in Ukraine during the Cold War. Some 55 of the capacious cargo planes were constructed between 1982 and 2004.

Ernest Gutschik, whose YouTube channel features videos of aircraft landing and departing from YYZ, reported that the now-stranded Antonov, prior to the onset of Russo-Ukrainian hostilities, passed through Toronto several times yearly—always to the delight of local plane-spotters.

Mr. Gutschik remarked of the An-124: “It just floats off the ground. … When it flies overhead, it has a unique shriek.”

Six of the world’s remaining An-124’s are currently operating in Western nations; one is owned by United Arab Emirates-based Maximus Air, and five belong to Ukraine’s Antonov Airlines. The latter aircraft are based in Leipzig, Germany, to which they were located following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Currently, two Russian-owned An-124s are grounded in Leipzig—so stated Antonov Airlines commercial director Dmytro Prosvirin.

Dan Morgan-Evans, cargo director for London-based Air Charter Service, set forth that Western wartime embargos have greatly limited the use of the remaining An-124s. Aside from commercially transporting oil-and-gas industry equipment and satellites, the Ukrainian An-124s are plied, primarily, to delivering equipment the likes of electric generators to Warsaw and other cities in the vicinity of  Ukraine.

In 2022, one of the Ukrainian-owned-and-operated An-124s transported a 66-ton Turkish telecommunications satellite from Toulouse, France to Cape Canaveral, Florida—from which it was launched into orbit by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

FMI: www.torontopearson.com/en

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