When shooting the new Marveli collection in Dubai we took a drive out to Umm Al Quwain to the famous abandoned plane left for many years on an old airstrip. With signs surrounding the place stating ‘Restricted Access’ we pushed the boundaries to get some amazing shots both inside and on top of the plane.
What now serves as an advertising platform for the nearby Palma Beach Hotel, the plane is an Ilyushin IL 76. The Soviet era aircraft was designed as a strategic airlifter, and was useful in remote areas as it operated well on unpaved runways.
With a fixed wing and four engine turbofan, the plane's serial number is 03403072, and was built for the Soviet Air Force in 1975. It is believed that it entered service at some point in the late 70s, early 80s under the registration CCCP-86715.
There is still confusion that surrounds the plane's final journey and ultimate resting place in Umm Al Quwain in 1999, but the stories prior to it arriving are very intriguing.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the plane was then operated by the Russian Air Force until the mid-1990s, under the registration RA-86715. Then, the plane was re-registered as EL-RDT to Air Cess in 1997, then as 3D-RTT to AirPass in 1998, and then was last registered to Centrafrican Airlines from 1998 to 2000.
And this is where it gets interesting... Two of the above airlines, Air Cess and Centrafrican, were also connected to Viktor Bout, a notorious Tajik arms dealer who for a time in the 1990s, is believed to have operated from Sharjah to Ras Al Khaimah. His planes carried cargo and arms from Eastern Europe via the Middle East, to Africa. Which no doubt subsequently led to him being banned from entering the UAE in the early 2000s, and his arrest in Thailand in 2008.
He is now currently serving a 25 year sentence in a US jail.