AirBridgeCargo (ABC) may have dodged a bullet by giving up its two planned Il-96-400Ts to Sky Gates Airlines, which will be acquired by Russian passenger carrier Red Wings.

One aircraft expert said the ex-Polet aircraft were very challenging freighters to operate economically, and had significant design flaws. However the breakdown of the deal, on which ABC had already paid insurance deposits, according to Russian media, leaves ABC without aircraft.

One insider said the carrier now had few, if any, options remaining.

One source indicated that ABC founder Alexi Isaikin was a tough negotiator and the lessor, Ilyushin Finance Co (IFC) – part of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) which restored and supplied the aircraft, refused to meet his terms for the planes.

The first of ABC’s new aircraft was due to start operating last month, with the second entering service early next year.

There has been much shuffling of positions in Russia: IFC has seen its management change, with the new CEO, formerly general director of a company owned by Boris Alyoshin, a director of Red Wings.

Red Wings is now set to acquire Sky Gates Airlines – which has been dormant since its 747-400Fs were repossessed and went to Silk Way West Airlines in March 2022.

The carrier told media that it also hoped to operate Tu-204/214 freighters via Sky Gates’ AOC – aircraft which are also available via UAC and IFC.

One aircraft has already been painted in ABC livery. One source joked that the amount of paint now on the 14-year-old aircraft would probably result in a reduced payload.

ABC had hoped to open routes to China – but it seems Red Wings is now more in favour than Mr Isaikin among Russian aviation circles.

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