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A Cubana Tupolev Returns Home
Cubana, the Havana-based flag carrier of Cuba, has always been a bit of an enigma. It has quite a lengthy history as the carrier nears its 94th year of service on Oct. 8, 2023, yet most of its fleet is parked except for a single aircraft that flies domestically within the country.
A Tupolev TU204, which carriers the registration CU-T1702, has returned to its home country of Cuba after being flown from Ulyanovsk, Russia where it has been undergoing heavy maintenance since July of 2019, to Reykjavik, Iceland, and then to Gander, Canada on Sept. 17, 2023. Then on Monday, it took a flight from Gander to Havana where it landed at 4:53 p.m. local time.
As far as we are aware, this is the first actual Cubana aircraft that has been flown at all, except its single ATR-72, since one of its IL96s left for Russia back in August of 2022. All Cubana flights, except for some domestic flights on the ATR, have been accomplished using leased aircraft. Even the airline’s main international routes, from Cuba to Buenos Aries and Madrid, have been flown on leased Airbus A340-300s from Spanish company PlusUltra.
Where Does Cubana Fly Right Now?
As far as the internet is concerned, the airline currently has only 12 aircraft total most of which are stored due to a lack of available parts from Russia, maintenance, and ‘economic blockades imposed by the United States.’ Cuba itself is a media black hole of information, especially for Americans, although the airline does have a surprisingly active Facebook page that is updated frequently by the airline.
According to planespotters.net, Cubana has six Antonov AN158 aircraft, which have all been grounded since the 2018 crash of a Cubana AN158 near Holguin. Two Ilyushin IL-96-300s, one of which has been stored in Havana since July 2021, and the other has been at Voronezh International Airport in Russia since August 2022. Three Tupolev TU204s, two of which have been stored in Havana since 2015 and 2017, and the final one which landed back in Cuba on Monday. And the single ATR72, which is the only aircraft the airline has that is actively flying commercial flights.
With the Tu204 being flown to Cuba after maintenance, it could be a sign that the airline has plans to restart flights on the Russian-built aircraft. If Tu204 flights were to restart, it would only be the third country in the world that has scheduled passenger flights on the Tu204 after Russia and North Korea. For those who do have the ability to visit Cuba and fly on the airline, having the ability to fly on a Tupolev would be a surefire way to live out an AvGeek dream, as it is such a rare aircraft.
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