look what the cat dragged in

So this is the best news story on the Ilyushin 76 seized in Thailand I’ve yet seen. Based on that, we know that the aircraft is ex-Beibars (a company that suddenly appeared on the Viktorfeed at the end of 2007, and which is banned from the EU) and ex-East Wing. But we still didn’t have a registration or a serial number.

But looking up Air West Georgia (ICAO: AWG), I could simply look for an aircraft described as ex-Beibars or ex-East Wing. ATDB.org had a reference to 4L-AWA at AWG as being ex-East Wing; following it back, I found it had been supposedly transferred from East Wing to Beibars but the transaction had been cancelled. That, however, was enough to find the serial number (3426765). And what did we find in the database for that?

4L-AWA is none other than Air Pass/Air Cess’s Swazi registry 3D-RTA, Centrafricain Airlines’ TL-ACY, and GST Aero’s UN-76007 – to put it another way, it’s been with Viktor Bout companies since 1997, when it was taken off the Russian register in order to be exported to Malaysia – entirely fictionally. In fact, it was already a regular visitor to Sharjah in 1996, according to photo evidence, which places it there while Richard Chichakli was setting up the SAIF Free Zone.

Since then, ATDB has updated its files to confirm the aircraft is indeed number 3426765. At Beibars, it was operating along with none other than the former YU-AMJ, an aircraft previously used by Tomislav Damjanovic’s Air Tomisko to run guns and ciggies in and out of the Balkan wars. 3344804, also with Beibars as UP-I7623, is also ex-GST Aero (and a few others – Aerolift of Somalia fame and Air Leone). In fact, every aircraft there had seen service moving arms into war zones.

East Wing, in case you ask, is itself banned from the EU and owned the bulk of the old GST Aero fleet of Ilyushin 76 before they were mostly moved on to Beibars. It also has another ex-GST Il-76 via another company and the former ST-AQA, formerly of both GST and Phoenix Aviation – and this aircraft in northeastern Brazil.

Supposedly it was carrying a sizable cargo of arms from North Korea declared as “oil drilling equipment”. (wot no fish?) I don’t know where to, or whether there is truth to the North Korean bit, but it was an aircraft well worth stopping on suspicion based on an asset operating history analysis. It is fair to say that the UAE would have been a likely call before going somewhere else, perhaps in Africa or southwest Asia.

Wild speculation would be that this can’t help Viktor Bout’s case very much and that therefore this is quite a coup.

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