russian plane toronto

Massive Russian cargo plane has been stuck in limbo at Toronto airport for weeks

Three weeks into Vladimir Putin's all-out assault on Ukraine, the war may still be localized in Europe, but the effects have been felt worldwide, including here in Toronto.

Just a few days after the unprovoked Russian invasion, Canada unrolled a long list of sanctions, including airspace restrictions prohibiting all aircraft owned, chartered, or operated by Russia or a company/person connected to that country from using Canadian airspace.

This restriction went into effect just before an enormous cargo plane landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport Feb. 28, an An-124 — the world's largest production model cargo plane — registered to Russian-based Volga-Dnepr Airlines arriving from Khabarovsk, Russia via Anchorage, Alaska.

Unfortunately for the private charter airline, the hulking aircraft — which was en route to Canada to deliver COVID-19 supplies from China — was grounded upon arrival, unable to take to the skies until Russian aircraft are again permitted to use Canadian airspace, or pending an exemption from this restriction.

The heavy-lift aircraft, one of just a handful in commercial service, has since been a fixture for gawking eyes at Pearson Airport, standing out like a sore thumb among the comparatively small commercial jets plying the tarmac.

The behemoth was recently relocated from a storage area at the north end of the airport to a new position east of the passenger terminals and adjacent to Highway 427 for long-term storage.

It was all captured in a timelapse video, which also highlights the plane's impressive size compared to other aircraft.

In a statement provided to The Globe and Mail, Volga-Dnepr claimed it was looking toward the "settlement of all formalities to be able to fly to its home base."

But there is one unconfirmed report emerging that the plane could be on the move back to Europe soon, just not to its home base in Russia.

Euromaidan Press is reporting — and this is huge news if confirmed — that the grounded jet "will be transferred to the Armed Forces of Ukraine to deliver military aid." Like all news emerging through the fog of war, it should be taken with a grain of salt, but it's a pretty eye-popping claim.

Ukraine is in desperate need of military and humanitarian aid, but considering the recent U.S. veto on sending fighter aircraft to Ukraine from NATO countries on the grounds of further inflaming the conflict, one could argue sending Russian planes to Ukraine might similarly be seen as a provocation.

If confirmed (and I wouldn't hold my breath on that) the transfer of the aircraft would serve as partial justice for the Russian forces' destruction of the even larger Ukrainian-operated An-225, a legendary one-off plane that held the records for heaviest plane and the largest wingspan of any aircraft in operational service.

blogTO reached out to Transport Canada for information regarding the aircraft's current status and future, though the government department has yet to respond to our request for comment.

Lead photo by

Zbigniew Samek

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