Aeroflot flight 401 climbed through the night in the pre-dawn hours of March 3, flying north to the Mediterranean Sea and across Turkey before slipping back into Russian airspace, narrowly avoiding being reclaimed by its owner from the flag carrier of Russia.
The failed March 2 mission was one of the very first known attempts by a lessor to repossess a Russian-based commercial aircraft, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Air Current. What is typically an unremarkable journey connecting Moscow to Cairo would shine a spotlight on the unfolding collapse of Russian commercial aviation, shaking the foundations of international law.
Three hours before evading repossession in Cairo, the Airbus A321neo was over Georgia, the former Soviet republic, on its way to Egypt at 34,000 feet when its Certificate of Airworthiness was revoked (and its insurance canceled) by the Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority, where it was registered as VP-BXT last year. The 10-month old Airbus was being repossessed by its owner, SMBC Aviation Capital.
Lessors like SMBC, which has the second largest number of aircraft operating in Russia after AerCap, have been given until March 28 by the European Union to terminate their leases with Russian airlines under western sanctions designed to economically cripple key parts of the Russian economy, its severe punishment for invading Ukraine.
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