Azur Air aircraft disappear in Bermuda Triangle

Russia's largest charter company, Azur Air, has re-registered only one plane with Bermuda and is no longer planning.
Azur Air has transferred only one aircraft to the State Register of Civil Courts of Russia and does not plan to transfer the rest, said Deputy Director General of the airline Pavel Tereshchenko at the Wings of the Future industry forum.

Azur Air is the largest charter airline in Russia, affiliated with the Turkish tour operator Anex Tour. In its fleet, according to the Federal Air Transport Agency, 29 Boeing aircraft of different models, 21 of them - long-haul. And in January - September she transported 4.5 million passengers.

The Federal Air Transport Agency has long advocated the registration of foreign ships of domestic airlines in the Russian registry. This will make it possible to monitor the maintenance of the airworthiness of these vessels to the Russian regulator, and not to foreign aviation authorities. Currently, of the 770 foreign ships of the 30 largest airlines in Russia, approximately 700 are registered in Bermuda, 35 each in Ireland and Russia, follows from the data of the Federal Air Transport Agency and Flightradar24 resource. The country of registration is responsible for airworthiness. Airworthiness control is a paid service. For example, controlling a Boeing 737-800 (the most common foreign type in Russia) by Bermuda costs $ 30,000 a year. The price depends on the mass of the vessel. The budget could receive about $ 50 million a year if foreign airliners of Russian airlines were registered in Russia, said Artem Danilenko, head of the airworthiness maintenance department of the Federal Air Transport Agency, in March.

In March 2018, the Federal Air Transport Agency and Azur Air announced that the airline would transfer its entire fleet to the Russian registry. The carrier was the first in the country to massively transfer its fleet to the Russian registry and by the end of 2018 promised to register 10 airliners in Russia.

Tereshchenko’s words confirm the data of the Flightradar24 service: one Boeing 767 Azur Air is registered in Russia, all other airliners are still in Bermuda.

The company has difficulties maintaining the airworthiness of even one aircraft, Tereshchenko explained. And it was possible to put this airliner on the Russian registry only because it is owned by the airline. Leasing companies would not be allowed to do this, the top manager added.

The representative of the Federal Air Transport Agency declined to comment. In February 2018, the regulator revealed Azur Air’s deficiencies in maintaining airworthiness; approximately one and a half months were given for correction, otherwise the carrier was threatened with a complete stop. Azur Air had to change leadership. In March, the Federal Air Transport Agency announced its intention to transfer to the Russian register of liners and retain the carrier’s certificate of carrier.

The place of registration is chosen by the owner of the vessel, mainly leasing companies. Foreign vessels owned even by state-controlled companies (GTLK, Sberbank Leasing, VTB Leasing, VEB Leasing) are registered in Bermuda.

It is necessary to harmonize Russian rules for maintaining airworthiness with international ones, as well as amend the Tax and Civil Codes, says a representative of the State Customs Committee. Non-compliance of Russian standards with the rules established by leading world regulators, such as the FAA (USA) or EASA (Europe), upon subsequent transfer of a vessel to leasing abroad will lead to a drop in its market value, adds Kirill Tsarev, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sberbank Leasing. Conditions are needed so that the operation of the vessel in the Russian registry does not reduce its cost, says Dmitry Ivanter, VTB Leasing CEO.

The Ministry of Transport has established a working group to harmonize Russian rules for maintaining airworthiness with international ones. It includes airline representatives, a roadmap has been developed, said Alexey Ovsyannikov, S7 Airlines deputy general director, at the Wings of Russia conference.

But the movement of the Russian aviation authorities on this map is slow, there is hope only by 2023 to reach the long finish line of this process, Ovsyannikov added. In the meantime, leasing companies have nothing to offer on the issue of registering liners in Russia, there are no regulations for technical work, he complained.