Sunday, October 07, 2007

Need a hand with that?

David Phinney notepads something interesting about the scandal-lapped Kuwaiti contractor on the US Embassy in Baghdad:
From spring 2006: The general manager for the US Embassy contractor, First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting has two airplanes the company can't register and is piloted by a German pilot named Wolfgang .... The general manager also has another plane piloted by Brits flying in and out of Kuwait and a fourth that may be registered.

Another source related around the same time: "Some people have rumoured that First Kuwait use Chapman Freeborn flights every Thursday on their 737 and also Phoenix on their 737 with other people carried by Air Cargo Integrators ACI out of Kuwait. We, of course, could not possibly comment on how accurate these rumours are. I am sure you can get to the bottom of things. Hope this helps."
Aircraft the company can't register? Sounds unlikely, given all we know about how easy it is to launder planes. Aircraft brokerage Chapman Freeborn will be remembered from back in 2005, chartering planes for KBR including ones from Aerocom and Jet Line International; ACI's operations are described on their website,, which boasts of regular flights leaving Dubai at 0200Z for destinations in Iraq and also of "air drops in war zones". Interestingly, an Ilyushin 76 registered in Kyrgyzstan to "ACI Airlines" (EX-093, serial no. 1013407212) caught fire in dear old Pointe-Noire, Congo, on the 10th of July this year and became a total loss - whether they are connected isn't clear.

Phoenix must be Phoenix Aviation, now; the alternative PhoenixAvia doesn't operate 737s. This Kyrgyz-registry (EX-) company took over the assets of Viktor Bout's old Santa Cruz Imperial and Flying Dolphin Air operations in the UAE, and was blacklisted by the EU in March, 2006. It more recently developed its"MaxAvia" division at least in part as an effort to go legit, or at least to disassociate itself from its reputation. Its fleet has mostly been disposed of, although one Yak-40 is in storage at Moscow-Ostafyevo and a 737 is stored in Khartoum. The aircraft in question is probably EX-079, serial no. 21275. MaxAvia, meanwhile, has three further 737s, all ex-Phoenix, all EX-registry, and all officially based in Baghdad; I doubt they overnight there very often, though.

So, those Dubai-Baghdad flights. Here's the schedule in detail:
IRAQ: Baghdad - Erbil - Mosul - Basrah

Sector Day of Operation ETD-Dubai
Dubai - Baghdad - Basra* Monday 02:00 UTC
Dubai-Kuwait* - Baghdad Wednesday 02:00 UTC
Dubai-Baghdad* Saturday 02:00 UTC

* Subject to availability
** Flights to Erbil; Kirkuk and Mosul will be subject to minimum load requirements

AFGHANISTAN: Kabul - Kandahar - Bagram

Sector Day of Operation ETD-Dubai
Dubai - Kabul* Sunday 02:00 UTC
Wednesday 02:00 UTC

* Flights to Kandahar and Bagram will be operated upon request
I used a little python script to dig through the Dubai Airport website for flights leaving to any of the destinations they cover today; but apparently ACI isn't particularly punctual, because the Kabul flight didn't get off until 0830Z. It was operated, if that was the one, by Pamir Air as flight number NR202. Which is interesting; Pamir Air was the one run by Abdul Rashid Dostum as warlord of Mazar i-Sharif in 1994-1996, when the convicted cocaine smuggler Chris Barrett-Jolley (and in all probability Viktor Bout) were involved. It made a brief reappearance in 2004-05, but Dostum has concentrated on another aviation enterprise, Kam Air. And officially, it doesn't exist at the moment. Despite that, my script tells me that the opposite flight, NR201, came into Dubai last night at 1900Z.

Historically, flights have usually left Dubai and Sharjah for Baghdad at 0200; I recall this pattern back in 2004.

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