The Ilyushin IL 76 cargo plane, now apparently being used as an advertising billboard, at the old Umm Al Quwain airfield. John Dennehy / The National
The Ilyushin IL 76 cargo plane, now apparently being used as an advertising billboard, at the old Umm Al Quwain airfield. John Dennehy / The National

Shrouded in mystery: the Russian cargo plane abandoned in Umm Al Quwain



Sand, wind and the searing heat have not been kind to this old aircraft - the engines have long gone, its tyres and landing gear sink into the dunes and birds nest in the wings.
The abandoned plane, with adverts for the Palma Beach Hotel emblazoned on its sides, is a familiar and odd sight for many people as it sits beside the Barracuda Beach Resort in Umm Al Quwain (UAQ).
But like many strange and unexplained landmarks across the country, it has a story to tell.
The plane is an Ilyushin IL 76, a Soviet era aircraft. It was designed as a strategic airlifter, particularly useful for more remote areas as it had the ability to operate on unpaved ­runways.
It is a fixed wing, four engine turbofan, serial number 053403072, was built for the Soviet air force in 1975 and, according to a number of online aircraft registration databases, entered service at some point in the late 1970s or early 1980s with the registration CCCP-86715.
The airfield it sits on is in an equally bad condition - the runway, hangars and offices lie in disrepair, while another rusting biplane sits on the apron.
However, during the 1990s and 2000s it was a popular, unofficial airfield. UAQ Aerodrome, as it became known, was also the site of a sky-diving and parachuting club.
"It was a small airfield. There were some gliders, microlights and then a few Cessnas in later years. I bought a microlight and used to fly it between UAQ, Fujairah and RAK," says Mohammed Badrnejad, who flew there during the 1990s and now works in ­Fujairah.
"I also liked hang-gliding and parachuting and jumped many times at the UAQ airfield. It was a hobby. Most who used it were the same - mainly Europeans and Emiratis. It was for enjoyment. It was not ­official."
Badrnejad remembers the Russian aircraft - it being a particularly striking landmark when parachuting to the ground.
The plane, he says, arrived unexpectedly one morning but no one seemed to know why it was there.
"The Russian plane was there for a long time - it landed at the airfield in 1999. It was strange as nothing like that ever landed there. I often saw it on the ground when parachuting.
"But officials eventually closed the airfield four or five years ago. There were a number of accidents and people from Dubai stopped it because everything was unofficial. Some of the instructors moved to Skydive Dubai and a flying school was later established in Ras Al ­Khaimah."
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the plane was operated by the Russian air force until the mid-1990s under the registration RA-86715.
But this is where the story becomes more uncertain. The plane was then re-registered as EL-RDT to Air Cess in 1997 and then 3D-RTT to AirPass until 1998. It was last registered to Centrafrican Airlines from 1998 to 2000, an airline nominally headquartered in the Central African Republic with the registration number TL-ACN. The vague outline of this last registration is still visible on the plane, along with the make and model.
It's also worth noting that two of these airlines, Air Cess and Centrafrican, were connected to Viktor Bout, a notorious arms dealer who, for a time in the 1990s, is believed to have operated from Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. His planes transported cargo and arms from eastern Europe via the Middle East to Africa. The UAE banned Bout from entering in the early 2000s and he is currently serving a 25-year sentence in a US jail.
Confusion surrounds the plane's final journey to UAQ in 1999.
One unlikely theory is that the landing was an accident and the pilots mistook the small airfield for another.
A second is that it was bought with the idea of converting it into a restaurant or cafe and a third is that the plane was headed for another airport in the Northern Emirates, was refused permission to approach and then was forced to make an emergency landing because it was running out of fuel.
Another is that it was purchased for scrap metal by someone in the area. This is the most likely reason, says Alan Peaford, the editor of Arabian Aerospace. "I believe it flew in from another UAE airport and was then stripped of anything valuable," he says.
"Then it was used as a gate guard - common at many airfields, where a shell of a plane is used as advertising effectively."
To this day, the Ilyushin remains as a giant billboard for the Palma Beach Hotel, with the telephone number still ringing through to the hotel reception.
However, when contacted, no one at the hotel knew anything about the plane, or why the hotel's name was on its sides.
Today the airports of Sharjah, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah are leading the Northern Emirates to a bright new era of travel and tourism.
But the forgotten airfield and the Russian cargo plane, still brooding over the UAQ coast road, are a nod to a particularly freewheeling time in the country's aviation history.
jdennehy@thenational.ae
John Dennehy is deputy editor of The Review.

Sweet Tooth

Creator: Jim Mickle
Starring: Christian Convery, Nonso Anozie, Adeel Akhtar, Stefania LaVie Owen
Rating: 2.5/5

What should do investors do now?

What does the S&P 500's new all-time high mean for the average investor? 

Should I be euphoric?

No. It's fine to be pleased about hearty returns on your investments. But it's not a good idea to tie your emotions closely to the ups and downs of the stock market. You'll get tired fast. This market moment comes on the heels of last year's nosedive. And it's not the first or last time the stock market will make a dramatic move.

So what happened?

It's more about what happened last year. Many of the concerns that triggered that plunge towards the end of last have largely been quelled. The US and China are slowly moving toward a trade agreement. The Federal Reserve has indicated it likely will not raise rates at all in 2019 after seven recent increases. And those changes, along with some strong earnings reports and broader healthy economic indicators, have fueled some optimism in stock markets.

"The panic in the fourth quarter was based mostly on fears," says Brent Schutte, chief investment strategist for Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company. "The fundamentals have mostly held up, while the fears have gone away and the fears were based mostly on emotion."

Should I buy? Should I sell?

Maybe. It depends on what your long-term investment plan is. The best advice is usually the same no matter the day — determine your financial goals, make a plan to reach them and stick to it.

"I would encourage (investors) not to overreact to highs, just as I would encourage them not to overreact to the lows of December," Mr Schutte says.

All the same, there are some situations in which you should consider taking action. If you think you can't live through another low like last year, the time to get out is now. If the balance of assets in your portfolio is out of whack thanks to the rise of the stock market, make adjustments. And if you need your money in the next five to 10 years, it shouldn't be in stocks anyhow. But for most people, it's also a good time to just leave things be.

Resist the urge to abandon the diversification of your portfolio, Mr Schutte cautions. It may be tempting to shed other investments that aren't performing as well, such as some international stocks, but diversification is designed to help steady your performance over time.

Will the rally last?

No one knows for sure. But David Bailin, chief investment officer at Citi Private Bank, expects the US market could move up 5 per cent to 7 per cent more over the next nine to 12 months, provided the Fed doesn't raise rates and earnings growth exceeds current expectations. We are in a late cycle market, a period when US equities have historically done very well, but volatility also rises, he says.

"This phase can last six months to several years, but it's important clients remain invested and not try to prematurely position for a contraction of the market," Mr Bailin says. "Doing so would risk missing out on important portfolio returns."

Dengue fever symptoms
  • High fever
  • Intense pain behind your eyes
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle and joint pains
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen glands
  • Rash

If symptoms occur, they usually last for two-seven days

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Sheer grandeur

The Owo building is 14 storeys high, seven of which are below ground, with the 30,000 square feet of amenities located subterranean, including a 16-seat private cinema, seven lounges, a gym, games room, treatment suites and bicycle storage.

A clear distinction between the residences and the Raffles hotel with the amenities operated separately.

COMPANY PROFILE

Date started: 2020
Founders: Khaldoon Bushnaq and Tariq Seksek
Based: Abu Dhabi Global Market
Sector: HealthTech
Number of staff: 100
Funding to date: $15 million

Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices

The Florida Project

Director: Sean Baker

Starring: Bria Vinaite, Brooklynn Prince, Willem Dafoe

Four stars

Going grey? A stylist's advice

If you’re going to go grey, a great style, well-cared for hair (in a sleek, classy style, like a bob), and a young spirit and attitude go a long way, says Maria Dowling, founder of the Maria Dowling Salon in Dubai.
It’s easier to go grey from a lighter colour, so you may want to do that first. And this is the time to try a shorter style, she advises. Then a stylist can introduce highlights, start lightening up the roots, and let it fade out. Once it’s entirely grey, a purple shampoo will prevent yellowing.
“Get professional help – there’s no other way to go around it,” she says. “And don’t just let it grow out because that looks really bad. Put effort into it: properly condition, straighten, get regular trims, make sure it’s glossy.”

How to improve Arabic reading in early years

One 45-minute class per week in Standard Arabic is not sufficient

The goal should be for grade 1 and 2 students to become fluent readers

Subjects like technology, social studies, science can be taught in later grades

Grade 1 curricula should include oral instruction in Standard Arabic

First graders must regularly practice individual letters and combinations

Time should be slotted in class to read longer passages in early grades

Improve the appearance of textbooks

Revision of curriculum should be undertaken as per research findings

Conjugations of most common verb forms should be taught

Systematic learning of Standard Arabic grammar

Our legal consultants

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

The five pillars of Islam
ALRAWABI SCHOOL FOR GIRLS

Creator: Tima Shomali

Starring: Tara Abboud, Kira Yaghnam, Tara Atalla

Rating: 4/5

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Lamsa

Founder: Badr Ward

Launched: 2014

Employees: 60

Based: Abu Dhabi

Sector: EdTech

Funding to date: $15 million

New schools in Dubai
Essentials

The flights
Emirates, Etihad and Malaysia Airlines all fly direct from the UAE to Kuala Lumpur and on to Penang from about Dh2,300 return, including taxes. 
 

Where to stay
In Kuala Lumpur, Element is a recently opened, futuristic hotel high up in a Norman Foster-designed skyscraper. Rooms cost from Dh400 per night, including taxes. Hotel Stripes, also in KL, is a great value design hotel, with an infinity rooftop pool. Rooms cost from Dh310, including taxes. 


In Penang, Ren i Tang is a boutique b&b in what was once an ancient Chinese Medicine Hall in the centre of Little India. Rooms cost from Dh220, including taxes.
23 Love Lane in Penang is a luxury boutique heritage hotel in a converted mansion, with private tropical gardens. Rooms cost from Dh400, including taxes. 
In Langkawi, Temple Tree is a unique architectural villa hotel consisting of antique houses from all across Malaysia. Rooms cost from Dh350, including taxes.

UAE Warriors 45 Results

Main Event : Lightweight Title
Amru Magomedov def Jakhongir Jumaev - Round 1 (submission)
Co-Main Event : Bantamweight
Rany Saadeh def Genil Franciso - Round 2 (submission)
Catchweight 150 lbs
Walter Cogliandro def Ali Al Qaisi - Round 1 (TKO)
Bantamweight
Renat Khavalov def Hikaru Yoshino - Round 2 (TKO)
Flyweight
Victor Nunes def Nawras Abzakh - Round 1 (TKO)
Flyweight
Yamato Fujita def Sanzhar Adilov - Round 1 (submission)
Lightweight
Abdullo Khodzhaev def Petru Buzdugen - Round 1 (TKO)
Catchweight 139 lbs
Razhabali Shaydullaev def Magomed Al-Abdullah - Round 2 (submission)
Flyweight
Cong Wang def Amena Hadaya - Points (unanimous decision)
Middleweight
Khabib Nabiev def Adis Taalaybek Uulu - Round 2 (submission)
Light Heavyweight
Bartosz Szewczyk def Artem Zemlyakov - Round 2 (TKO)

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures