Why is Boeing 747-400 being registered under Barbados colors and moved at night?

by David, Barbados Underground

Why is there a big white end-of-life Boeing 747- 400 aircraft, capable of carrying 490 passengers or troops 7,285 nautical miles non-stop, sitting at Grantley Adams International Airport for the past month being de-registered from an FAA holding registration of N508BB to a Barbadian registration of 8P-ERI?

Research shows that this is the very same aircraft, serial number 29031, registration number B18208, that was delivered to China Airlines, a Taiwanese airline company in September 1998, and retired from service in October 2017 to long-term storage at the California Logistics airport at Victorville (Aircraft Boneyard).

This aircraft was recently de-registered and re-registered as N508BB by AAR corporation in May 2018, and then transferred to a trust company called Aero Intelligence, Inc. (Trustee) in April 2019.

This aircraft was then re-painted white, overhauled engines were fitted, and it was ferried from the southern California logistics airport (SCLA) at Victorville, California, (boneyard) on May 23, 2019, to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (PHX) Arizona, and then ferried from Phoenix to Argyle International Airport (SVD) in St. Vincent on May 24, 2019, by Canadian company Nolinor Aviation.

It arrived in St. Vincent to great fanfare, to be delivered into the waiting arms of fledgling Vincentian charter airline One Caribbean which is only 2 years old and only operates a single Beechcraft 1900, 19-seater charter aircraft. Sources say that one of the owners of One Caribbean is the son of Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

One Caribbean then sought to de-register and re-register this end-of-life Boeing 747 aircraft in St. Vincent under the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA). However, the ECCAA said they had never registered a Boeing 747 and sought guidance from the US FAA on registration of this aircraft, since this would require oversight and maintenance to be done in accordance with ECCAA regulations.

Capt. Paul Delisle, ECCAA’s flight operations inspector, confirmed that the request to certify the 747-400 was a big step for ECCAA.

He noted that as the airworthiness regulator for 6 member nations of the English-language organization of Eastern Caribbean States (Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent), ECCAA today has oversight of 6 AOCs, 14 airports, and just 41 aircraft. Six are helicopters but none of the aircraft is a large commercial jet.

Delisle said the ECCAA was taking a 2-step approach to re-registering the One Caribbean 747-400. First, “We were discussing the whole plan with the FAA,” which originally awarded the Boeing 747-400 its type certification, he said. “We wanted concurrence” with the FAA on all matters relating to N508BB’s potential SVG certification.

One reason is that 21 years ago, ECCAA’s predecessor certified a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 for the Antigua and Barbuda registry for a company called SkyJet. However, according to Delisle, the aircraft actually was based in Belgium, from where it was leased to various carriers throughout the world.

The FAA took such a dim view of the situation that in 2002 it removed the Eastern Caribbean regulator from its list of approved Category 1 airworthiness authorities. “We had to stop that [Belgium-based] operation to get Category 1 categorization” back, said Delisle. “It’s a sensitive subject.”

It seems that following information received from One Caribbean about the purpose and use of this aircraft, as well as the information received from the FAA regarding the maintenance requirements of this aircraft, the ECCAA is not interested in registering it.

Following this development, we are reliably told that Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves phoned Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and asked for her help by having this aircraft registered in Barbados.

Barbadian colors were then painted on its tail, and it was ferried under dark of night to Grantley Adams International Airport where it now sits.

Barbados Underground was reliably informed that Prime Minister Mia Mottley has given instructions to the Director of Civil Aviation to have this aircraft registered on the Barbados aircraft registry despite objection from the DCA and that this has now been completed, and it is registered as 8P-ERI.

This, however, poses other serious issues for Barbados. Being a Barbados-registered aircraft, it will need to be operated under a Barbadian commercial air carrier with a valid Air Operators Certificate (AOC). There happens to be one such Vincentian-owned charter operator in Barbados called Executive Air run by Vincentian John Ackie. On a side note, John Ackie’s brother-in-law is currently serving time in a US prison for drug smuggling and money laundering. John’s sister still resides in Florida.

We are reliably informed that this aircraft has been licensed under Executive Air’s AOC to be operated by fledgling Vincentian charter operator One Caribbean and apparently re-leased to a Dubai company to move passengers and cargo between the UAE, Africa ,and St. Vincent.

As a Barbadian-registered aircraft, this plane will have far less scrutiny than a US, Vincentian, or UAE-registered aircraft. It will also require local civil aviation authorities to have oversight and sign off on all maintenance and inspections. It will require an approved maintenance program be put in place, none of which the local authorities in Barbados have experience in for such a colossus as a Boeing 747-400. There isn’t even a hanger in Barbados large enough to house a 747 for maintenance inspections.

Why is a Dubai company going to such great lengths to conceal the true identity of the operators of this aircraft? If such a company wanted to offer 747 charter flights between the UAE, Africa, and the Caribbean, why not simply lease or purchase one directly and register it in the UAE under the UAE Alpha 6 registration?

Why would a tiny startup Vincentian air charter operator who has only ever operated a 19-seater Beechcraft turboprop aircraft, purchase or lease a near-end-of-life Boeing 747-400 aircraft which can carry 490 people, through a trust company, register it in Barbados through a Barbados-based Vincentian-owned air charter company’s AOC, only to lease it to a Dubai company to do charters between the UAE, Africa, and St. Vincent?

That aircraft can carry 490 people or troops, or thousands of tons of cargo, weapons, or drugs over 7,200 nautical miles, non-stop.

This Boeing 747-409 would be close to its maximum airframe life limit of 20,000 cycles for its age, is extremely uneconomical to operate, will require compliance with an extensive list of service bulletins (SBs) and airworthiness directives (ADs). This type of aircraft is only useful for extremely long flights, moving large numbers of passengers, and huge quantities of cargo.

It is an inordinate and uneconomical gas guzzler.

Where would any charter operator find enough passengers in the UAE who want to travel to tiny St. Vincent to justify the cost of owning and operating such a large and expensive aircraft? Are there enough Vincentians anxious to travel to Africa or the Middle East each week to fill up 490 seats?

Or will it be used to transport marijuana grown in the Caribbean to far-away destinations?

Perhaps it will be used to deliver aircraft parts to Iran who has been using front companies to purchase 747 parts to keep its aging fleet in the air.

Is it really being leased to a Dubai company or to an Iranian front company posing as a Dubai charter operator?

This is a highly-unusual arrangement and can place Barbados Civil Aviation and the International Airport in jeopardy of being de-categorized by the FAA, or worse.

Further, FAA records show that Aero Intelligence, Inc. (Trustee), the owners of N508BB, told the FAA that this 747 aircraft was being exported to Antigua & Barbuda, but we now know that it was in fact exported to St. Vincent and not Antigua. Why did they tell the FAA they were exporting this aircraft to Antigua & Barbuda and not St. Vincent? Would this have created a red flag?

Antigua is well known for aviation operators and is the base of regional air carrier LIAT. But St. Vincent has never ever had an aircraft this large land there until now.

What will this plane carry?

Marijuana? Troops? Weapons, drugs, nuclear material? Regional politicians on long expensive business trips to the Middle East? Aircraft parts or weapons to Iran or other countries?

We sincerely hope that the United States, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and international customs agencies keep a very close eye on this Boeing 747-409 registered in Barbados as 8P-ERI. Who knows what it may be transporting in the future and to where?

By the way, the Middle East is presently on a heightened aviation terror alert. Could Dubai-based operatives be planning to use a Barbados-registered 747-400 aircraft as a flying bomb in a terror attack against Iran in retaliation for recent attacks on UAE targets? What impact would this have on Barbados if this aircraft is used for such a purpose? How will the Barbados Civil Aviation Authority have proper oversight of an aircraft being subleased to third parties in St. Vincent or the Middle East?

Barbados Civil Aviation Authority should not touch this aircraft with a 10-foot pole. They are setting Barbados up for international trouble. If One Caribbean wants to operate or lease this aircraft to a Middle Eastern company, let them register it in the eastern Caribbean or the Middle East.

Barbados should not touch it.

We need some answers about this.