A Boeing 747-8 freighter leased to Russia’s AirBridgeCargo has flown to California from Hong Kong, according to FlightRadar24, after a U.S. judge signed an order allowing lessor BOC Aviation Ltd. to repossess it.
The order was unsealed and made public on Tuesday, court documents showed and the aircraft arrived in the United States on March 25, according to the flight tracking service.
BOC Aviation and its lawyers declined to comment.
Singapore-based BOC Aviation is one of many global aircraft lessors that had planes on lease to Russian airlines before sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forced the cancellation of leases and insurance policies.
More than 400 leased planes worth almost $10 billion remain in Russia despite a Monday deadline for contract cancellations, though the Interfax news agency last week reported that 78 had been seized abroad.
BOC Aviation shares closed 4.4 percent higher on Wednesday, outpacing a 1.4 percent rise in the Hong Kong index. The lessor on March 10 said its 18 planes leased to Russian airlines had a book value of $935 million and could be affected by insurance policy cancellations.
In court documents filed on March 14, BOC Aviation sought orders for one of three 747-8 freighters on lease to AirBridgeCargo that was in Hong Kong to be repossessed and flown to the United States for storage.
BOC Aviation said the aircraft was worth $148 million and that AirBridgeCargo had breached leases for two other 747-8s when it flew the planes, which were in mainland China, back to Russia despite the lessor’s explicit instructions to ground them on March 5 after insurance coverage was cancelled.
One of the planes returned to Russia even after its airworthiness certificate was suspended by Bermuda, the location of registry, BOC Aviation said.
Those two freighters remain in Russia, according to FlightRadar24 data.
Volga-Dnepr Group, the owner of AirBridgeCargo, said on March 18 it had grounded the subsidiary’s fleet of Boeing planes because of Western sanctions, according to media reports.
A Volga-Dnepr spokesperson on Wednesday declined to comment on the situation, citing ongoing negotiations with lessors.
By Jamie Freed