Cubana's fleet: VIPs come first
MICHEL SUÁREZ | Madrid | 21 de Noviembre de 2016 - 23:11 CET.
Cubana de Aviación has blamed its disastrous state (once again) to the
US embargo. "There are no aviation supply companies in the world that
dare to sell direct to Cuba," the company's director recently alleged.
As he said it, a Boeing 767 - one of the enemy's great aeronautical
flagships - was flying between Havana and Buenos Aires, and other
leased aircraft, by Embraer (Brazil) and Airbus (EU) were carrying out
medium and long-distance operations. The US embargo, according to
Castroism, is responsible for every evil affecting the Island, but the
facts suggest otherwise.
Cubana: si no sale hoy, sale mañana
Dubbed "La Milagrosa," Cubana de Aviación is the perfect synthesis
illustrating the national debacle. True to the slogan popularized by its
customers ("Cubana: if it doesn´t leave today, it'll leave tomorrow"),
on September 26 the company sent an email to the passengers of Flight
CU-470, scheduled between Havana and Madrid, reporting to them a change
of date "for operational reasons."
Although they did not disclose these "reasons," the day before Raúl
Castro had taken an IL-96-300 aircraft out of circulation in order to
travel to Cartagena de Indias and attend the signing of the agreement
between the FARC and the Colombian government. The political act took
place on precisely the 26th.
At almost the same time, another IL-96, registration CU-T1717, was
grounded after suffering an incident on its way to Buenos Aires,
according to sources familiar with the case. The aircraft, transferred
from Aeroflot and 23 years old, was involved in its second serious
incident, on the same route, both in 2016.
Cubana de Aviación has four Russian IL-96 aircraft operating. However,
chaos constantly plagues the company due to the travel (official or
personal) of Raúl Castro and Nicolás Maduro, and regular breakdowns.
"The aircraft with registrations CU-T1254 and CU-T1251 have problems
with their PS90 engines, despite being practically new," DIARIO DE CUBA
was informed by Julio Infante, the creator a popular Internet forum on
Cuban aviation and a former employee of a European airline.
"The crown jewel"
For international travel, Raúl Castro uses the IL-96-300, with
registration CU-T1250. According to the magazine Airways International,
its first class section is only available when the dictator flies: "It
is also the head of state's aircraft. The front end of the Business
Class section is off limits. The Mini Business area is the only section
available (from what was First Class)."
In its original configuration, the "area of State" features 22 luxury
seats, although there exist no photographs or video of it. There are
another 18 for business class seating on commercial flights, termed
The CU-T1250 regularly flies to Madrid Barajas and Paris Orly, but
routes to Spain are those most often disrupted by the Bolivarian agenda.
In addition to the aforementioned cancellation on September 26, due to
the trip to Colombia, Castro traveled to Santiago de Cuba on October 3
to "monitor" the preparations for Hurricane Matthew's impending arrival.
Although the dictator does not usually use the IL-96-300 for his
domestic travel, Cuban canceled flights to Madrid on 3 and 7 October. On
the first day it transferred the travellers to hotels, sparking strong
protest by a group of Spanish tourists. The flight took off 30 hours
later on a A340, leased from the Spanish carrier Plus Ultra.
"Castro uses other smaller airplanes to fly around the Island. The
problem with the IL-96 is the disastrous state of the fleet," explains
Luís Dominguez, a Cuban-American researcher and creator of the blog Cuba
al descubierto, on which he has revealed the internal situation of Cuban
commercial and military aviation.
Nicolás Maduro also frequently uses Cuban commercial aircraft to travel
abroad. His most recent trip took him to the Middle East, and a stop at
the Vatican. There is no public data on the nature of the aerial
"collaboration" between the two regimes.
Cubana de Aviación fleet's currently consists of about 17 aircraft. In
addition to the four IL-96, it features six AN-158s, two TU-204s, and a
few ATRs. The rest (an Airbus 319 and 320 and a Boeing 767) are aircraft
leased to European companies.
The AN-158s, acquired very recently, represent a real headache for
regular operations. Today it seems that half are out of circulation due
to technical problems, based on their registration numbers.
"This is nothing new. The problem is the aircraft, which are not in
proper condition," explains Julio Infante.
Cubana de Aviación's Russian long-haul fleet has shown signs of
recovery. "They sent an IL-96 to Mexico to paint it, after a long time
going unused. And they are preparing another, to get it up and flying
too. In this case the four would be operating again," Infante said.
Does this mean that Castro and Maduro's international travel will no
longer affect commercial flights? No one knows.
Source: Cubana's fleet: VIPs come first | Diario de Cuba -