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Bermuda suspends flight certificates for Russian-registered aircraft

Aviation authorities say they can’t verify planes are airworthy

The Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority on Sunday suspended the flight certificates of Russian-operated aircraft registered in the country because of concerns international sanctions have degraded the ability to ensure they meet airworthiness standards.

Sanctions “have had a significant impact on the ability to sustain safety oversight on Russian operated aircraft,” Bermuda aviation regulators said in a statement. Flight, technology and other restrictions are so severe that aviation authorities are “unable to confidently approve these aircraft as being airworthy.”

The United States and European Union have closed their airspace to Russian aircraft and prohibited the sale of most avionics and aircraft components to Russia to punish the Putin government for its invasion of Ukraine. Aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus, which have supplied a large portion of the Russian commercial airfleet, have suspended parts, maintenance and technical support for Russian airlines. 

The EU also banned leasing, maintenance and insurance of aircraft in Russia. Other countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom, have barred Russian aircraft from overflying their territory too.

Russian flag-carrier Aeroflot mostly flies Boeing and Airbus aircraft. The sanctions and Bermuda’s airworthiness decision essentially limit Russian aviation to domestic flights and could quickly bring the whole system to halt if operators can’t keep aircraft maintained and certified.

The Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) warned that Bermuda’s decision covers hundreds of Russian aircraft and could result in aircraft currently in countries without sanctions being denied the ability to return to Russia. 

Three-quarters of Russia’s commercial airfleet – 745 aircraft – are registered in Bermuda, according to aviation advisory firm IBA. The exact number of aircraft impacted by Bermuda’s decision is difficult to determine because airlines have been busy transferring aircraft registry to Russia.

The Ministry of Transport’s plan to take over the airworthiness certificates of foreign aircraft and their maintenance has raised safety concerns among aviation experts because Russian carriers won’t have access to software updates and manufacturer support, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported.

Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency last week urged national carriers to significantly reduce their scheduled international flights and recommended that carriers with aircraft from overseas lessors should suspend international flights to prevent the seizure of aircraft by other governments, which has happened in several cases.

The Federal Air Transport Agency also recommended that Russian citizens use foreign air carriers to return home, with routes via Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan possible options or flying to Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Finland and completing their journey by ground transportation.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at ekulisch@freightwaves.com