Bermuda suspends permits for Russian-operated planes

The British Overseas Territory made the move over safety oversight concerns, saying it was unable to confidently approve the planes – almost three-fourths of the Russian fleet – as airworthy.

 A Russian government plane is serviced on a runway in the process of collecting expelled Russian diplomats at Dulles international airport in Chantilly, Virginia, US on March 5, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNST)
A Russian government plane is serviced on a runway in the process of collecting expelled Russian diplomats at Dulles international airport in Chantilly, Virginia, US on March 5, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNST)

Bermuda's aviation regulator said it is suspending certification of all Russian-operated airplanes registered in the British overseas territory due to international sanctions over the war in Ukraine, in a move expected to affect more than 700 aircraft.

The regulator said it was unable to confidently approve the planes as airworthy due to the impact of sanctions on its ability to conduct safety oversight. Manufacturers are no longer providing parts to Russian airlines as part of the those sanctions.

The decision by Bermuda's Civil Aviation Authority announced on its website late on Saturday would normally lead to the planes being grounded as of its deadline of 23:59 GMT on Saturday.

No plane is permitted to fly without a certificate of airworthiness, which is issued by the civil aviation authority in the country where the plane is registered.

In this case, however, flight tracking website FlightRadar24 showed that a few dozen Bermuda-registered planes were flying over Russia's airspace as of 15:50 GMT on Sunday.

Of the nearly 1,000 planes in the Russian fleet, 745 were registered in the archipelago about 1,000 km. (643 miles) east southeast of North Carolina, aviation consulting firm IBA said on March 1. Of those, 713 were leased and 32 were owned.

Russia's government said on Thursday it had proposed allowing foreign planes leased by Russian airlines to be registered as the airlines' property, and for them to be given Russian airworthiness certificates. Read full story

The move followed Russia's state aviation authority recommending that Russian airlines with foreign-leased aircraft suspend flights of passengers and cargo abroad, making it harder for lessors to repossess the planes.

Global leasing companies staring at an imminent deadline to repossess more than 400 jets worth almost $10 billion from Russian airlines have received mostly radio silence as experts warn of legal wrangling that could last a decade.

Mutual air closures by the European Union and Moscow over the war in Ukraine have left Russian aviation in near isolation.

Sanctions imposed by the EU in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine give leasing firms until March 28 to free themselves from deals with Russian airlines.