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Russian fined over Yellowknife flight, plane must leave empty

Last modified: March 4, 2022 at 2:06pm


An aircraft grounded in Yellowknife over airspace rules related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been allowed to leave as long as no passengers are aboard.

The Dassault Falcon 900 corporate jet brought two Russian nationals to Yellowknife on Tuesday. On Friday, Transport Canada concluded the flight had “operated contrary” to airspace restrictions announced among other sanctions against Russia.

Canada had earlier said flights chartered by Russians would be considered in violation of its airspace, even if the aircraft itself was not owned or operated by a Russian company.

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The aircraft left Yellowknife Airport at 1:24pm MT on Friday, bound for Geneva, Switzerland – its original departure point.

In a statement by email to Cabin Radio, a Transport Canada spokesperson said one passenger, a Russian national who chartered the plane, had been fined $3,000. The two pilots were each fined $3,000 and the aircraft’s operator, Geneva-based Dunard Engineering, was fined $15,000.

“It has been determined that the aircraft, although not Russian-owned or registered, had, in fact, operated contrary to the airspace restrictions announced on February 27, 2022,” the spokesperson wrote.

“Transport Canada has cleared the aircraft to operate in Canadian airspace so that it can depart Yellowknife Airport on the condition that it have no passengers on board.

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“The department will not hesitate to take further enforcement action should additional incidents of non-compliance with the regulations and restrictions be found.”

The Russians who arrived in Yellowknife have not been publicly identified, but details of their proposed expedition provided by the Northwest Territories’ infrastructure minister, Diane Archie, match those of a project named the TransGlobal Car Expedition, in which a team including several Russians is endeavouring to cross the globe by vehicle.

That expedition is due to begin this fall and visit Yellowknife in January 2023 but the group this week shared to Instagram plans for a “Canadian test drive” beginning in Yellowknife and travelling to Resolute, Nunavut and beyond.

“Our entire team is already in the second-largest country in the world,” the project team wrote on Instagram.

“We are planning to explore the northern part and see the beauty of nature with our own eyes.”

There was no mention of any issue with the group’s aircraft or arrival into Canada. By Friday, the group had still to post anything related to the flight’s grounding and had not responded to requests for comment.

The passengers are understood to have stayed at a local hotel and dined at Yellowknife restaurant Bullocks Bistro while awaiting a verdict from Canadian authorities.

What the passengers will now do, their plane having departed without them, is unclear. The TransGlobal Car Expedition’s planned “Canadian test drive” was to have taken them by land to Nunavut, though few if any NWT authorities appeared to be aware of the group’s ambitions before their arrival.

Among team members listed on the group’s website are Vasily Shakhnovsky, a Russian former oil and gas executive once reported by Forbes to have wealth well in excess of $1 billion, and Vasily Elagin, a Russian mountaineer and explorer.

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