russian plane toronto

Massive Russian plane stuck in Toronto for over a year has racked up a huge bill

Russian President Vladimir Putin expected his conquest of Ukraine to take a few weeks tops, but the brutal invasion has dragged on for 13 months. Meanwhile, the invaders continue to hemorrhage money on the battlefield, through international sanctions, and even on the tarmac of Toronto's Pearson Airport.

Since the starting days of the botched invasion that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, a massive Russian-flagged cargo plane has been parked seemingly abandoned at Pearson Airport, racking up an equally massive bill in the process.

The Antonov An-124 'Ruslan,' registered to Volga Dnepr Airlines, was grounded in late February after delivering COVID-19 test kits to Canada via China. The grounding of the plane — one of the largest production cargo carriers in the world — was the result of a federal order banning Russian-flagged aircraft from operating in Canadian airspace.

Transport Canada told blogTO in 2022 that "as part of a suite of economic countermeasures against the Russian Federation following its invasion of Ukraine, the Government of Canada closed Canada's airspace on February 27, 2022, to Russian-owned, chartered or operated aircraft, including in the airspace above Canada's territorial waters."

Transport Canada said that while it was "aware that there is a Russian aircraft currently grounded in Toronto," the government body stressed that it "has not seized any aircraft."

Instead, a spokesperson for Transport Canada explained that "the aircraft is unable to depart in Canadian territorial airspace as it would be in violation of the Notice to Airmen or NOTAM [Notice to Airmen], which may lead to enforcement actions taken by Transport Canada."

That NOTAM remains in place, as does the plane. Currently parked at a long-term storage area at the northeast edge of the airport, it's quite easy to see the Russian cargo plane up close for yourself.

Drivers passing by on Highway 427 have been craning their necks at the curious behemoth since its Feb. 27, 2022 arrival, but curious aviation geeks can get a closer look from Silver Dart Drive east of Jetliner Road, about 700 metres from Airport Road.

There are also some great views of the grounded behemoth from nearby hotels and parking garages, though you'll have to fork over quite a handful of cash for some of these elevated viewpoints.

Granted, you'll pay nowhere near as much to see the plane as the growing bill that the cargo liner's operator faces if it wants to recover the Antonov.

One consequence of the plane's long-term grounding has been a growing tab for aircraft parking fees. The plane is subject to the airport's standard parking rate of $1,065.60 per day.

Rounding off the conflict's length to a more digestible 400 days, those fees would add up to — and this is a ballpark estimation — just over $426,000.

These long-term costs for a Russian cargo carrier pale in comparison to even a single day's loss on the battlefields of eastern Ukraine.

Russia is visually confirmed (with photographic evidence) to have lost close to 9,900 military vehicles since the start of the invasion, according to Turkish-based conflict analysts Oryx.

Included in that figure is (as of Mar. 28) a staggering 1,901 tanks destroyed, damaged, or captured by Ukrainian forces, which can cost upwards of $5 million USD per unit.

Russian military expenditures had topped a staggering $82 billion USD by November 2022, and that figure has only risen in the months since.

So a loss of a few hundred thousand dollars, or even the estimated $50-90 million USD unit cost of an AN-124, probably wouldn't make a dent in Putin's war machine, but the plane still looms large on the Pearson Airport skyline as a visual reminder for locals of the conflict raging on half a world away.

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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