21 апреля 2020

РС-12 NG ferry flight to Russia amid COVID-19 pandemic – a Hollywood movie script

Back in February 2020 it was hard to imagine that as soon as in mid-March many countries would close their borders, cancel flights, and a scheduled PC-12 NG delivery to a Russian client would be in jeopardy.

We want to share this very special story of the PC-12 NG delivery and some comments from Nesterov Aviation team, who rose to the challenge, completed the mission, which even Ethan Hunt can now envy.

Only the first stage of the transaction went according to the plan and without any problems – the aircraft acceptance inspection at the Pilatus Aircraft HQ in Stans, Switzerland. On March 3rd, the borders with Europe were still open, so everyone flew on a commercial airliner. When at Pilatus the team had a test flight on the client’s PC-12 NG, checked all the necessary documents, and since everything turned out to be in order, after signing the acceptance certificate they were on a plane back to Moscow. However, at a time when it was necessary to make the payment for the aircraft and sign additional documents, the virus was officially a pandemic. Europe began to close its borders and urging people to self-isolate, the government in Moscow did the same. Thus, all parties involved in the transaction, including the leasing company, through which the transaction was conducted, found themselves stuck in self-isolation.

“Logistics turned out to be the biggest issue. During the document signing stage the three parties could not get together in one place, so we had to constantly send documents back and forth around Moscow for signing. Making payment for the aircraft was the next problem. After signing the contract, our client made the downpayment, but the bulk of the amount was to be paid after the aircraft acceptance inspection. The outstanding amount was large and also in foreign currency, therefore, all banks inspected it very thoroughly. Typically, a payment transaction takes 2-3 days, but taking into account the greatly reduced staff around the world in banks and correspondent banks, this was extended to almost a week. ” – says Alexey Mordvintsev, Sales Director, Nesterov Aviation.

Fortunately, all delivery services (DHL, Fedex, UPS) continued to operate normally, and all concerns regarding the delivery period of the original documents from Switzerland did not materialize: the documents were delivered to Moscow within a week.

But these mainly related to bureaucracy worries and fears fade in comparison with the difficulties of implementing the second stage – the ferry flight from Switzerland to Russia.

“The original idea was to fly a plane to one of the regional airports by the Russian pilots, but a few days before that, Russia closed its sky, making it impossible to fly abroad. We started looking for alternative ways, considering the option of flying the aircraft by Swiss pilots. Although at first glance this seemed impossible: commercial flights to and from Russia were completely prohibited. It was unclear how the Swiss pilots delivering the aircraft will return home afterwards. Moreover, the pilots did not have the Russian visas, and they couldn’t get them, because all consulates were closed. In addition, if the pilots were to stay in Russia at least a couple of hours and then return to Switzerland, they would be put in 14-day quarantine. That is, we only had a day to make the ferry flight and return to Switzerland, which seemed unrealistic. To make things even more complicated, at the Buochs ​​airport, where Pilatus Aircraft is located, the customs and border service were closed during the quarantine, we could not make a direct flight to Moscow. ” – shares Alexey.

And at this moment, Nesterov Aviation team came up with a very bold idea, which in the end was successfully implemented. In order to deliver the aircraft it was decided to use two planes: the client’s Pilatus PC-12 NG operated by one pilot and to be remained in Russia, followed by Pilatus PC-24 with one pilot on board (all Pilatus aircraft are certified for single-pilot operation) to pick up the first pilot in Moscow and return to Switzerland.

This was the best solution for the Swiss pilots to return back home, when regular flight out of Russia were canceled.  However, due to the pilots’ lack of Russian visa, it was agreed to land at Sheremetyevo airport instead of a regional airport, the aircraft’s final destination. At that point Sheremetyevo was one of two airports in Moscow that were admitting international flights and where pilots could get their visas on arrival.

“It took us about 4 working days to make all necessary arrangements for the flight and obtain permits. Both flights were declared as technical, without passengers. Our Swiss colleagues did their part by relocating both aircraft to Bern, where the border service was functioning. The following day early in the morning, the PC-12 NG and PC-24 were on their way to Moscow. Both flights were direct, without stopping or refueling. PC-24 was the first to land, followed by PC-12 NG. After completing all the necessary procedures, the pilots went to get visas and prepare for their return flight. A few hours after the landing of the PC-12 NG, both pilots boarded the PC-24 and flew back to Switzerland." – summarizes the successful completion of the delivery Alexey.

“Our challenge was completed: the aircraft was handed over to our client in Russia and is currently undergoing the registration procedure. The aircraft is maintained by the engineers of our authorized Pilatus service centre in Russia, the next step is the after-sales technical support that is already in progress, ”says Dmitry Sokolov, Deputy General Director for After-Sales Services.

It’s worth reminding that our clients in Russia and CIS have at their disposal the entire range of comprehensive after-sales support services: this is the provision of airworthiness (CAMO services) and timely maintenance (including warranty), as well as direct supply of spare parts from Pilatus Aircraft.