Friday, January 16, 2009

fly or die

It seems the UAE's Antonov-12 ban is real. The shortage of inbound flights in the Viktorfeed continues; out of 57 overnight movements, in itself an unusual low, there were 10 inbounds after cleaning up the odd false positive. Here is a list:

South-AirlinesSTH7002ErbilSharjahscheduled 1600Z
TransaviaexportTXC1722KabulSharjah scheduled 1500Z
SafiSFW205KabulSharjahscheduled 1500Z
SakaviaAZG1115KandaharSharjaharrived 0830Z
BeibarsBBS1810KabulSharjaharrived 0800Z
Russian SkyESL9456KabulSharjaharrived 0700Z
South-AirlinesSTH7006Baghdad Intl.Sharjah0300Z
Ababeel AvnBBE200RiyadhSharjahyesterday 2115Z

There were also two positioning flights by AVE/Phoenix Aviation 737s between Dubai and Sharjah. The significant thing here is that probably no An-12s were involved. South-Airlines has three, but it also has three Il-76, six An-24s and -26s, and an An-74. TXC has five aircraft, all Il-76s. Safi has one 767 and one 737. Sakavia has two Il-76, one An-26 and one An-12. Beibars and Russian Sky own 2 and 4 Il-76s respectively, and Ababeel has only one aircraft known to be active, an An-24RV.

So, the Antonov-12s have been run out of town. However, there is an interesting paradox here. What about our old friends from British Gulf International? They started all this back in the day, and they operate nothing but An-12s, six of them. At some point there was also an An-26 but this hasn't been seen for some years.

And somehow, they are still sending off flights. Doing a quick SELECT COUNT(notes), flightno, destination FROM flights WHERE flightno LIKE "%BGI%" AND notes > '1231518600' GROUP BY destination; on the database, I find there have been 68 BGIA movements since 1630 last Friday, of which 62 were outbound, and 6 inbound, all to Sharjah. This is weird.

That's 8.85 movements a day, which is achievable if half the aircraft made more than one trip a day - as long as they came back, of course. But they haven't come back; there has been no BGIA inward flight since Friday. So where are the aeroplanes coming from?

It's possible that BGIA has been sending other An-12 operators' aircraft out of the UAE using its call sign. But it's still quite a lot. I put together a chart to visualise the whole strange phenomenon...

As always, click on it to interrogate the data. Meanwhile, reader Ajay, who desperately needs his own blog, has a suggestion for where the scene might reconvene - Guinea, where the longstanding French-sponsored dictator died over Christmas, leading immediately to a military coup, and where there is a huge airfield with a 10,826 foot runway (that's longer than Heathrow), which the Soviet air force used in the 70s and 80s as a staging post and a base for Tu-95 maritime patrol planes.

It's an idea; but West Africa is not quite as crazy as it was ten years ago. There's the option of getting into the cocaine trade, but if Viktor Bout can get in trouble dealing with FARC, you have to wonder if the small fry will be up for it.

1 comment:

ajay said...

Or, possibly, somewhere in the Horn of Africa region? Loose oversight, a flourishing airfreight business (qat into Somalia, twenty tons a day from Kenya alone) which An-12s would be well suited for, and a good hub location for continuing operations in the ME and SW Asia. Asmara might be nice. Or Aden.

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