Huge Russian cargo plane has been stuck in limbo at Toronto airport for weeks

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Three weeks after Vladimir Putin’s all-out assault on Ukraine, the war may still be localized in Europe, but the effects have been felt around the world, including here in Toronto.

Just days after the unprovoked Russian invasion, Canada rolled out a long list of sanctions, including airspace restrictions prohibiting all aircraft owned, chartered or operated by Russia or a company/person related to that country to use Canadian airspace.

The restriction came into effect just before a massive cargo plane landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on February 28, an An-124 – the world’s largest production cargo plane model – registered to Volga-Dnepr Airlines, based in Russia, from Khabarovsk, Russia, via Anchorage. , Alaska.

Unfortunately for the private charter airline, the huge plane – which was en route to Canada to deliver COVID-19 supplies from China – was grounded upon arrival, unable to take off until Russian aircraft being allowed to use Canadian airspace again, or pending an exemption to this restriction.

The heavy-lift aircraft, one of the few in commercial service, has since become a staple of Pearson Airport, standing out like a sore thumb among the relatively small commercial jets plowing the tarmac.

The giant was recently moved from a storage area at the north end of the airport to a new position east of the passenger terminals and adjacent to Highway 427 for long-term storage.

It was all captured in time-lapse video, which also highlights the plane’s impressive size compared to other planes.

In a statement provided to The Globe and Mail, Volga-Dnepr said it was considering the “settlement of all formalities to be able to fly to its home base”.

But there is an unconfirmed report that the plane may soon return to Europe, but not to its home base in Russia.

Euromaidan Press reports – and this is huge news if confirmed – that the grounded aircraft “will be transferred to the Ukrainian Armed Forces to provide military assistance”. Like all news emerging in the fog of war, it should be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s a pretty stark claim.

Ukraine desperately needs military and humanitarian aid, but given the recent US veto on sending fighter jets to Ukraine from NATO countries on the grounds of further aggravating the conflict, one could say that sending Russian planes to Ukraine could also be seen as a provocation.

If confirmed (and I wouldn’t hold my breath on it), the plane’s transfer would serve as partial justice for the downing by Russian forces of the even larger Ukrainian-operated An-225, a unique legendary aircraft that held the records for heaviest aircraft and longest wingspan of any aircraft in operational service.

blogTO has contacted Transport Canada for information on the current and future status of the aircraft, although the department has not yet responded to our request for comment.

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