Massive Undertaking for North Korea’s Expedition to Singapore

 - June 11, 2018, 11:16 AM
A North Korean government Ilyushin IL-62M approaches Singapore's Changi International Airport on June 10. (Photo: Chen Chuanren)

In the days leading up to the arrival of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore for his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, many questions arose about the logistics of the trip given the questionable airworthiness of the hermit kingdom’s small fleet of Soviet-era aircraft.

All details remained under wraps until the first North Korean delegation arrived in Singapore on June 9, via an Air China Airbus A330-200 (B-6130), callsign CCA60, which departed Pyongyang for a 10-hour nonstop flight to Singapore. The same aircraft returned to Beijing on the same day. 

On June 10, an Air Koryo Ilyushin IL-76 (P-914) cargo airplane left Pyongyang and stopped to refuel in Guangzhou, China, before landing in Singapore to deliver Kim’s Mercedes Benz limousine and other support equipment. 

The same day, an Air China Boeing 747-400 departed the Korean capital with the callsign CCA122, the standard flight number for the now-defunct Pyongyang-Beijing service, a route that Air China said it would soon resume. The flight later changed its callsign over Beijing to CCA61. The 747-400 arrived in Singapore at around 3 p.m. local time when Kim walked off the aircraft with his delegation to a greeting from the Singapore foreign minister. 

The Air China 747-400 (B-2472) is one of the four Air China 747s reserved for the Chinese leadership team. The Chinese Foreign Ministry later confirmed that the Civil Aviation Administration of China provided the relevant service to the North Korean delegation traveling to Singapore upon request from Pyongyang.

Much to the surprise of many, the state IL-62M arrived last, about 40 minutes behind Kim. Capable of a range of approximately 5,400 nm, the IL-62M still made a refueling stop in China, although the purpose for the stop remains uncertain.

AIN witnessed the arrival of the aircraft, notably with distinct separation of other traffic into Changi airport. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and the Ministry of Defense both had issued Notams highlighting airspace restrictions and flight delays from June 11 to 13.

All of the arrivals landed on Runway 20C, due to the proximity to the Changi VIP complex.