An unusual flight over Europe on Tuesday caught the eye of many people. Egyptair was taking delivery of a freshly leased A220. It’s a nice little plane but no big deal in itself. What got people’s attention was the route the delivery flight took. The aircraft took off from Toulouse and headed off to Cairo, via the United Kingdom.
A quirk of UK law means leased aircraft must overfly UK airspace
The reason is both simple and complex. The Airbus A220-300 operating yesterday’s flight was SU-GFI. A UK-based aircraft leasing company owns the plane. According to a legal quirk, unless the aircraft flies through UK airspace, the delivery has not taken place. So yesterday, SU-GFI headed up to Dover before turning around and tracking southeast towards Egypt.
Tuesday’s delivery flight means all 12 of the Airbus A220s ordered by Egyptair are now at the airline.
Ian Petchenik has covered some of these weird and wonderful quirks of aircraft leasing in FlightRadar24. He says to activate some of the financial aspects of an aircraft lease involving a UK lessor, the plane needs to be physically present in the UK.
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Not so long ago, the plane would have landed at a UK airport. Someone duly authorized would sign the paperwork on UK soil. The aircraft could then take off and head off to wherever it was meant to go – everything signed and sealed.
Now, thanks to the joys of WiFi, the paperwork is signed while flying in UK airspace. Technically, that’s still in the UK.
Delivery—Toulouse to Cairo, via the UK? https://t.co/SGPcff8w6O
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) September 29, 2020
A nifty and common airborne legal hack
It sounds like a nifty little hack to partly get around an oddball legal requirement. What’s surprising is how common these sojourns over UK airspace are. There are several big aircraft leasing businesses based in the UK. Every aircraft that gets sourced from them has to do what the Egyptair flight did yesterday.
It was the second time an Egyptair flight overflow the UK in a week. On September 23, taking delivery of their 11th A220-300, registered as SU-GFG, that aircraft followed the same routing from Toulouse to Cairo.
Ian Petchenik’s FlightRadar24.com story is a couple of years old, and his story followed the delivery of an Air Europa flight from Charleston in the United States to Madrid in Spain. That flight went via Lands End in the far southwest of the UK before turning south and heading to Spain. He was able to illustrate how the flight nipped into UK airspace, overflow a tiny portion of dry land, and satisfied the legal niceties of leasing from a UK leasing business.
Yesterday’s Egyptair flight took five and a half hours. The distance between the two airports is approximately 3,600 kilometers or about four hours without diverting via the UK. SU-GFI is destined to fly around the southern fringes of the Meditteranean and across to the Gulf countries. Egyptair is sending its fleet of A220s to Jeddah, Damman, Kuwait, Riyadh, Madinah, Baghdad, and Abha. In the meantime, SU-GFI is getting a final polish and outfit in Cairo.