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    Cubana’s fleet – VIPs come first

    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
    “Tropical Class.”

    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 –

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