Back in February 2020 it was hard to imagine that by mid-March many countries would close their borders, flights would be cancelled and a scheduled PIlatus PC-12 NG delivery to a Russian client would be in jeopardy. Nesterov Aviation, the authorised Pilatus aircraft sales and service centre for Russia, rose to the challenge, however, and successfully completed its mission.
Only the first stage of the transaction went according to plan and without any problems; the aircraft acceptance inspection at Pilatus Aircraft's headquarters in Stans, Switzerland. On March 3rd, the borders with Europe were still open, so the Nesterov team flew there on a commercial airliner. Having had a test flight on the client's PC-12 NG, checked all the necessary documents were in order and signed 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 had officially been declared a pandemic. Europe began to close its borders and urge people to self-isolate, and 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 down payment, but the balance 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 two to three days, but because of 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 service providers, such as DHL, Fedex and UPS, continued to operate normally, and all concerns regarding the delivery period of the original documents from Switzerland did not materialise: the documents were delivered to Moscow within a week.
But these worries related to bureaucracy soon faded in comparison with the difficulties of implementing the second stage; the ferry flight from Switzerland to Russia.
“The original idea was to fly the plane to a Russian regional airport with Russian pilots, but a few days before that, Russia closed its sky, making it impossible to fly abroad. We started looking for alternative ways, and considered the option of flying the aircraft with Swiss pilots. At first glance this seemed impossible however: commercial flights to and from Russia were completely prohibited, and it was unclear how the Swiss pilots delivering the aircraft would return home afterwards. Moreover, the pilots did not have 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 was closed during the quarantine, so we could not make a direct flight to Moscow,” Mordvintsev continues.
And at this moment, the 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 aircraft: the client's Pilatus PC-12 NG, operated by one Swiss pilot, which would remain in Russia, followed by a Pilatus PC-24 with another Swiss 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 to enable the Swiss pilots to return back home, as regular flights out of Russia were cancelled. However, due to the pilots' lack of Russian visas, it was agreed that they would land at Sheremetyevo airport instead of the aircraft's final destination at a regional airport. 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 four 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. Early in the morning the following day, the PC-12 NG and PC-24 were on their way to Moscow. Both flights were direct, without stops or refuelling, and he 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," says Mordvintsev of the successful completion of the delivery.
“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 authorised Pilatus service centre in Russia, and the next step is the after-sales technical support that is already in progress,” says Dmitry Sokolov, deputy general director for Nesterov's after-sales services division.
Nesterov's authorised Pilatus aircraft sales and service centre in Dobrograd offers the entire range of comprehensive after-sales support services, including the provision of airworthiness and CAMO services and timely maintenance, including warranty, as well as the direct supply of spare parts from Pilatus Aircraft.