russian plane toronto

Massive Russian cargo plane still grounded in Toronto and here's how to see it

Two months into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a symbol of the horrors of the unfolding war stands idle on the tarmac of Toronto Pearson International Airport.

A gigantic Russian-registered cargo plane has been grounded since days after the start of the unprovoked invasion, the result of Canadian sanctions that include airspace restrictions prohibiting all aircraft owned, chartered, or operated by Russia or a company/person connected to that country from using Canadian airspace.

The Antonov An-124 — one of the largest production cargo planes in the world — registered to Volga Dnepr Airlines, was grounded in late February after delivering COVID-19 test kits to Canada via China.

And it doesn't look like the titan of an aircraft will be leaving any time soon as Vladimir Putin doubles down on his war and fires back against Canadians with sanctions of his own.

In March, the plane was relocated from the north end of the airport to its current position, parked in a long-term storage area at the northeast edge of the airport.

russian plane toronto

Location of the Russian cargo plane at Pearson Airport.

Motorists can easily see the Antonov passing by on Highway 427, but you can get an even better view if you know where to look.

The aircraft is located directly adjacent to Silver Dart Drive where it crosses below an overpass next to a fuel tank farm. This is where you can get closest to this beast of a plane.

There is nowhere to park legally, and a tow truck station is located directly south of the viewpoint, so the only way to get up close and personal with the gargantuan cargo jet without risking towing is to make the treacherous trip on foot via Jetliner Rd.

It's only about a 700-metre walk from Airport Rd, but it somehow feels longer.

Once you're past the tank farm and across the underpass, the plane is right there and can easily be photographed through the chain-link fence.

It's so close that you can practically touch it. But that would be a pretty dumb idea and an easy way to end up in a Mississauga police station. So keep that in mind.

russian plane toronto

View of the plane from Silver Dart Drive.

Even if you're just snapping some pics, intrepid photographers may need to explain their presence to any patrolling security or law enforcement, as any snooping around the fences of an international airport could be seen as suspicious.

If (like me) your camera lens doesn't fit through the fence links, or perhaps you want a wider view, there is a small grassy hill on the north side of Silver Dart Drive that offers a spectacular view of the plane.

russian plane toronto

View of the plane from the grassy hill along Silver Dart Drive.

The entire time, you may feel like you're somewhere you're not supposed to be, but this viewpoint is very much on a publicly accessible road beyond the airport's security control area.

russian plane toronto

The massive tail bears a Russian flag, juxtaposed against the tails of Air Canada planes and the Pearson control tower.

But there are other ways to see this behemoth for those unwilling or unable to get right up to the fence.

You can also spot the mammoth plane from the upper deck of the Value Park Garage on Viscount Rd, but if you want to park there, it'll cost you a hefty $29, so this spot is probably best enjoyed by people with business at the airport.

russian plane toronto

The aircraft can be seen towering over its surroundings from the upper deck of the Value Park Garage on Viscount Rd.

From there, you can hop on the free (which is relatively meaningless after shelling out for parking) Link Train into the airport for another viewpoint.

Pearson passengers or anyone willing to take the trip can take in views from N Star Rd serving the upper level of Terminal 1 at the east end of the building.

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 that statement came just days after the plane’s grounding at Pearson, where it remains as of late April.

Photos by

Jack Landau

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