Now you can own a piece of Umm Al Quwain's mystery, Soviet-era aircraft

Local company came up with limited edition and laser-etched plane-tags with the flight's make, model, tail number and spec outline to keep alive aviation history

by

Mazhar Farooqui

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FILE. The abandoned Ilyushin Il-76 plane being dismantled at the old airfield of Umm Al Quwain, United Arab Emirates, Friday, May 27, 2022. Photo: AP
FILE. The abandoned Ilyushin Il-76 plane being dismantled at the old airfield of Umm Al Quwain, United Arab Emirates, Friday, May 27, 2022. Photo: AP

Published: Thu 29 Dec 2022, 5:57 PM

Last updated: Mon 23 Oct 2023, 11:36 AM

Many UAE residents were left dismayed when an abandoned cargo plane in Umm Al Quwain was dismantled in May this year to make way for a new project. The 153-foot Ilyushin IL-76 was an iconic landmark as it sat near the Barracuda Beach Resort along E11 for over two decades.

However, fans of the mysterious, red-nosed Soviet-era plane can now get their hands on a slice of aviation history, thanks to a local company that has made limited edition plane tags from the original skin of the famous aircraft.


The tags can be used as key chain or simply as a collector’s item,” said Fawaz Mohammad Ali, founder of Wings Craft. The Ajman-based company has been upcycling aviation materials into furniture and art décor since 2018.

Fawaz Mohammad Ali, founder of Wings Craft.
Fawaz Mohammad Ali, founder of Wings Craft.

Recently, it made plane tags from the first Emirates A380 that was dismantled last year.


But Ali, who has an aeronautical engineering degree, says working on the IL-76 was particularly special.

Photo by Neeraj Murali.
Photo by Neeraj Murali.

“As someone who was born and raised in the UAE, the IL-76 was very close to my heart. I was fascinated by the sight of this majestic plane every time I drove to Umm AI Quwain,” recalled the Indian expat.

Ali said he was so saddened when he learnt about the demolition of the plane from Khaleej Times that he immediately drove down to Umm Al Quwain to have a final look at the aircraft.

Video: M Sajjad

“Getting anywhere near the plane wasn’t easy but I persuaded the security to let me in. I was overcome with grief as I saw workers tearing apart the plane bolt by bolt. The thought that a famous landmark was about to be melted in a furnace broke my heart and I decided to come up with something that could enable people to cherish the memories of this plane long after it has gone. I found the scrap dealer who had bought the plane. From him, I picked up some plane skin that we have now upycled into 3,500 pocket-sized plane tags.

Numbered as a limited edition and laser-etched with the aircraft’s make, model, tail number and spec outline, the tags (width: 4.5cm; length: 5cm) will retail at Dh99 from early next year.

“It’s a piece of aviation history in your pocket,” said Ali, who has also managed to buy the plane’s flight control column and throttle. He plans to transform them into aviation-themed furniture.

The IL-76 abandoned in UAQ was once part of the Soviet Union's large fleet of Ilyushins. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was flown by the Russian air force until it was decommissioned in the mid-nineties.

The plane was allegedly sold by the Russians to Air Cess, an airline that operated in Sharjah. It was last registered to Centrafrican Airlines. Both Air Cess and Centralafrican were connected to Viktor Bout, an international arms dealer who allegedly used his airline companies to smuggle weapons.

The UAE banned Bout from entering the country in the early 2000s. He was arrested in 2008 in the US and a federal judge later sentenced him to 25 years in jail for conspiring to kill Americans.

The UAE banned Bout from entering the country in the early 2000s. He was arrested in 2008 in the US. A federal judge later sentenced him to 25 years in jail for conspiring to kill Americans. Bout was released earlier this month from US detention in a prisoner swap for US basketball star Britney Griner.

Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun, who wrote Merchant of Death, a book on Viktor Bout, said the arms trafficker "sold the aircraft to an advertising firm in the UAE, promising to turn it into a roadside billboard along the bleak highway".

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