UAE bans An-12s

SOVIET-era cargo planes – the An 12 – have been banned from flying in the UAE. The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCCA) made the dramatic ruling citing recent accidents involving An-12s over the last four months.

Mohammed al Suwaidi, director general of the authority, said that companies using An-12s could fly them out of UAE airports by today after a “comprehensive pre-flight check”.

A spokesperson for GCAA said the action was “simply to ensure the safety of the general public and to keep the UAE airspace safe”.

Affected air cargo companies are furious citing no consultation and that aviation authorities around the world rarely ban aircraft types, only the offending companies.

Alexander Smolin, general manager of Sky Support Service in Sharjah and a spokesman for the cargo companies affected, said that the accidents had been a result of “crew mistreatment of the equipment” not the plane itself. “This aircraft is as safe as any aircraft,” he said. “No one has come to us about any sort of investigation into these [alleged safety] issues.”

The four-engine turboprop plane is a workhorse of the cargo business throughout the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe. The ruling will affect an estimated 90 per cent of the cargo market in the UAE.

Many of the companies affected have contracts, often with DHL and UPS, which they will now no longer be able to keep.

Justin Bowman of Air Charter Services told Air Cargo News that a number of the resident An-12 operators had “misbehaved”. “As brokers we have to play by the rules but renegade carriers have been getting away with not doing so. Some of their An-12s are an accident waiting to happen and I wasn’t surprised at the fatal accident in Iraq. However, I don’t think that it is necessarily over for the An-12 in Dubai.”

At least two of the cited four accidents and incidents involved planes owned by British Gulf International Airlines, the Sharjah-registered carrier that was allegedly heavily associated with ‘Merchant of Death’ gunrunner Viktor Bout. Air Cargo News believes that the carrier’s crews were regularly working 18-hour duty days and five sectors.

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