European Commission Supports ICAO Condemnation of Russia’s Aviation Law Violations

Since the beginning of the war between Russia and Ukraine, commercial aviation has been one of the sectors that have been impacted the most by the hostilities. The Ukrainian airspace is closed to commercial traffic, and both the European Union and Russia have imposed economic sanctions on each other. As a result, the airspace above Russia is not accessible to registered aircraft from the west, making trips between Europe and the Far East much longer than they used to be prior to the conflict.

However, the illegal re-registration of aircraft owned by western leasing companies onto the Russian aeronautic registry, so that Russian airlines can operate them, has created the greatest economic impact on commercial aviation.

A number of close to 600 Western-built aircraft with an original market value of approximately $13 billion are currently operated in Russia, research group Russell Group reported. Last March, approximately one month after the start of the war, the Russian government passed a law “allowing the country’s airlines to place airplanes that were leased from foreign companies onto the country’s aircraft register,” according to Reuters. 

This situation — which has caused Western lessors to write off hundreds of millions of dollars due to their inability to access their assets — is in blatant violation of Article 18 of the Chicago Convention, ICAO stated last June. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a United Nations agency that helps 193 countries to cooperate together and share their skies for their mutual benefit.

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Last week, the European Commission welcomed the decision by ICAO to condemn the practice to re-register aircraft onto the Russian registry, as well as the continuous Ukrainian airspace violations in the context of Russia’s war of aggression.

Adina Vălean, Commissioner responsible for Transport, said: “[…] Russia continues to disrespect the fundamental rules of international aviation and to instruct its airlines to work against these rules. I welcome the ICAO Council’s clear condemnation, which reflects the gravity of the actions undertaken by Russia.”

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The Chicago Convention

According to Article 18 of the Chicago Convention, the treaty governing international civil aviation since 1944, states that “an aircraft cannot be validly registered in more than one State, although its registration may be changed from one state to another. Once a State has registered an aircraft, a number of safety-related obligations fall upon it by virtue of the Chicago Convention and its Annexes.”

The dual registration causes a number of concerns, first and foremost about its safety, since these aircraft are operating without a valid Certificate of Airworthiness, according to the European Commission.

ICAO is going to bring Russia’s violation of these basic principles of international aviation law to the attention of its 193 Members States during its General Assembly. This meeting is scheduled to take place in Montreal between Sept. 27 and Oct. 7.

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