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Cambodian ‘ghost’ plane to be auctioned

Vietnam plans to auction off an abandoned Boeing 727-200 aircraft that belongs to the now-defunct Cambodian commercial carrier Royal Khmer Airlines in order to recoup nearly 10 years of parking fees it has racked up at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport, according to Vietnamese media.

The plane had been leased to the defunct Siem Reap-based charter operator Air Dream when it was abandoned at the airport in May 2007 following a technical malfunction. Both Royal Khmer Airlines and Air Dream went out of business later that year.

The Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV) has repeatedly petitioned the Cambodian government to remove the aircraft and pay back more than $600,000 in unpaid parking fees it has accumulated.

Cambodian aviation officials claim the derelict aircraft is not their responsibility, as they have revoked the operating licences of both Royal Khmer Airlines and Air Dream, and the Boeing 727-200 was removed from the official registrar of Cambodian-flagged civil aircraft in 2008.

Sin Chanserey Vutha, spokesman of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), said yesterday that the agency received several notices from Vietnamese authorities over the years, and advised them that the owner of the abandoned aircraft could not be reached so Vietnam was free to do as it pleases with the plane according to its law.

“It is not our government’s responsibility; it is the operator’s,” he said. “If after enforcing the law the airline still owes Vietnamese authorities, it’s not for us to pay on the company’s behalf.”

Vutha said he did not know who owned Royal Khmer Airlines, but cases of owners abandoning aircraft at foreign airports were common.

“There are many cases where some small airline companies suffered operating losses and their owners just parked the aircraft at an airport until it was confiscated,” he said.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport has proposed allowing the Airports Corporation of Vietnam to sell off the Royal Khmer Airlines “ghost” plane, Vietnamese media reported. The parking costs would be deducted from the proceeds of the sale.

In June, an assessment by CAAV concluded that the 41-year-old aircraft, whose technical malfunction was never repaired, had seriously degraded during its decade parked on the tarmac and could not be recovered for normal operations.

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