UK Grounds Jet at Farnborough in Russian Sanctions Probe

 - March 9, 2022, 10:36 AM
A Luxembourg-registered business jet (not pictured here) was detained at Farnborough Airport while UK officials investigate possible breaches of sanctions imposed in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Image: Farnborough Airport)

The UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) has detained a Luxembourg-registered private jet at Farnborough Airport while it investigates possible breaches of sanctions against Russia. At 9:40 p.m. local time on March 8, officials issued a notam preventing the Bombardier Global 6500 from taking off, just a few hours after the government introduced new legislation making it a criminal offense to breach a ban on any aircraft that has any connection to Russia through registration or ownership, or even if it is chartered by Russian travelers.

The aircraft (tail number: LX-FLY) is registered with the European management and charter group Global Jet Luxembourg. According to UK officials, it arrived at Farnborough on March 4, after a transatlantic flight from the New York-area Teterboro Airport. The operator company did not immediately respond to questions from AIN about the aircraft, which had been due to depart Farnborough enroute to Dubai. UK officials indicated that in addition to issuing the notam preventing takeoff, they had revoked the foreign carrier permit covering the aircraft. “It will remain at the airport whilst we investigate further whether it falls under the recent legislation banning all Russian-lined aircraft,” said a DfT spokesperson.

According to Farnborough Airport, the flight into the UK had been approved by National Air Traffic Services, which controls access to UK airspace. “All international flights are subject to arrival checks by UK Border Force officials who are based permanently on-site at Farnborough Airport,” a spokesperson for the privately-owned facility said in a written statement. “We are in constant dialogue with the Department for Transport and UK Border Force to ensure that all UK flight sanctions are rigidly enforced. Farnborough Airport will refuse entry to any flight where it has information that it is in breach of UK sanctions.”

The DfT spokesperson said its officials are working with the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in dealing with the incident. The CAA now has the power to refuse to register any aircraft in the UK if it appears to be owned, chartered, or operated by or on the behalf of a person subject to sanctions. It can also terminate the existing UK registrations of any such aircraft.

The initial basis for the investigation was based on guidance from UK attorney general Suella Braverman and is being supported by the National Crime Agency. The DfT has declined to comment on widespread media reports, citing unnamed government sources, that Russian energy industry executive Eugene Shvidler had traveled on the Global Express.

The UK's new rules raise the bar for aircraft operators, airports, and service companies who are now required to be extra vigilant in determining any Russian connection to a flight. The opaque way in which some business aircraft are owned and registered does not make this task straightforward in all cases.

In a statement issued on Tuesday evening, transport secretary Grant Shapps said that the government views aviation-related sanctions as a legitimate tool in, “the fight against the Russian invasion.” In subsequent broadcast media interviews on Wednesday morning, he said that the new legislation had been necessary to close loopholes that could have allowed aircraft under different national registrations to evade existing controls.

“I signed [the legislation] last night to make sure we are not in a situation where Russian oligarchs feel they are able to come and go in their private jets,” Shapps said. “And there are wider issues here to do with gas and oil and making sure that we are not funding Putin's evil war with the proceeds of blood money so there are many different ways we are cracking down and this aviation law is one addition to that.”