This abandoned IL-76 plane, with adverts for the Palma Beach Hotel on its sides, was a familiar and odd sight for many people as it sat beside the Barracuda Beach Resort in Umm Al Quwain (UAQ) along the E11 highway. But like many strange and unexplained landmarks across the country, it has a story to tell.
❖ Weight: 20 grams
❖ Manufacturer: ILYUSHIN
❖ Aircraft Type: IL76
❖ Registration: RA-86715
❖ Operator: Centrafrican Airlines
❖ Size: 45 x 85 mm, 1mm thick
❖ Material: Upcycled aircraft skin
❖ Product color: White/Gray
❖ HS-Code: 7616.99.90
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the plane was operated by the Russian air force until the mid-1990s under the registration RA-86715. The plane was then re-registered as EL-RDT to Air Cess in 1997 and then 3D-RTT to AirPass until 1998. It was last registered to Centrafrican Airlines from 1998 to 2000, an airline nominally headquartered in the Central African Republic with the registration number TL-ACN. Two of these airlines, Air Cess and Centrafrican, were connected to Viktor Bout, a notorious arms dealer who, for a time in the 1990s, is believed to have operated from Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. His planes transported cargo and arms from eastern Europe via the Middle East to Africa. The UAE banned Bout from entering the country in the late 1999s.
Followed by the Ban UAE government shut the operation of the Centrafrican Airlines and grounded the IL76 from flying again which at that time was in Ras Al Khaimah international airport (RKT) with its one engine unserviceable. Meanwhile Victor Bout sold the plane to a UAE advertising firm, promising to turn it into a roadside billboard along the highway. UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) gave the Aircraft one last permit to take-off from RAK airport and land in the gravel paved runway of Umm-al-Quwain (QIW) airport which was on construction at that time. The pilot was offered $20,000 to reposition the Aircraft to QIW airport. The pilot examined the plane and found it could fly on three engines out of four. The plane took-off with its three engines and the veteran airman managed to land the old Ilyushin down to a soft landing in the sand along the highway, where it taxied into its final destination and the engines were shut down and they went quiet forever.
There it had remained for 23 years from 1999 until the authorities decided to scrap the Aircraft in May 2022. Sand, wind, and the heat have not been kind to this old aircraft ever since. The engines had long gone, its tires and landing gear sunk into the dunes and birds’ nest in the wings. Hence every scratch, paint chip, crack, color fade and any anomality are not a defect but a characteristic of the original aircraft skin.