Bermuda’s Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) said over the weekend it would immediately suspend all airworthiness certificates for Russian-operated aircraft on its registry.
The BCAA said that international sanctions imposed on Russia have effectively made it difficult for the agency to oversee Russian-operated aircraft on its registry safely.
“For any aircraft airborne at 23:59 UTC on March 12, 2022, the provisional suspension is effective immediately upon landing,” BCAA said on its website, in a move to slow Russian airlines from doing business by keeping the aircraft grounded until they can be listed elsewhere.
Bermuda No Longer a Safe Haven
Airlines initially registered their fleet in Bermuda because of its status as a tax haven and for ease of doing business. A Bernews report said that as much as 740 aircraft of nearly 900 aircraft on the registry belonged to Russian operators.
However, because of Bermuda’s status as a British overseas territory, it must comply with the sanctions the U.K. imposed on Russia. In fact, on its website, the Bermudian government said its sanctions “are essentially the same as those in the U.K.”
During a parliamentary session in early March, Bermudian government officials Liz Roberts and Elizabeth Truss called for the government to suspend its support of Russian-operated aircraft.
Putin Tries to Nationalize Stranded Aircraft
Valery Kudinov, the head of the Aircraft Airworthiness Department at the Federal Air Transport Agency, told the Tass news outlet that since the end of February, more than 180 aircraft have been added to the Russian state registry, which only stood at 70 aircraft before then.
Then Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin passed a law to legalize that questionable move. According to Reuters, Putin signed the law Monday morning to allow regional and national airlines that leased aircraft from foreign companies to now list on Russia’s registery and “to ensure the uninterrupted functioning of activities in the field of civil aviation.”
Along with airline lessors canceling their leases, this would effectively nationalize the stranded fleet and make it difficult for lessors to regain their equipment, especially before the March 28 deadline.
This creates another conundrum because the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) mandates that “an aircraft cannot be validly registered in more than one state,” and since there was no legal transfer of ownership from the lessors who outfitted Russian airlines’ fleets, these airplanes will be operating illegally in Russia.