Soviet Transport May Be Sold In Marquette

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It's not something you'll likely see in the classifieds, but the only U.S.-registered Ilyushin IL-78 could go on the block in a court-ordered sale next week in Marquette, Mich. The Mining Journal reports the massive former Ukrainian Air Force four-engine transport/tanker made what was supposed to be a refueling stop at Sawyer International Airport on July 17 but some of the crew didn't have their paperwork in order and Customs and Border Protection officials detained them briefly before deporting them. The hulking Soviet-era aircraft, which is owned by Tactical Air Defense Services Inc. of Florida and leased by Air Support System of Delaware, has been there ever since, accumulating ramp charges and a sitting duck for the $62,000 claim that a Texas company has against it for fuel and other services. Marquette courts have issued judgments over the past couple of months but there has been no response from the owners and Circuit Court Judge Thomas Solka says he'll order the plane put up for sale no later than Sept. 25 if someone doesn't come forward. And who on Earth would want it? Well, Tactical Air Defense Services certainly had big plans, according to a series of news releases issued by the company over the past couple of years.

The company intended to try to provide air-to-air refueling service for U.S. and other military aircraft. The plane is apparently outfitted for firefighting as well and can drop 18,000 gallons of water or retardant. CEO Mark Daniels said in a May news release that he already had some business tentatively lined up. "The interest in our IL-78 that we are receiving from both government and private entities is significant, and we are currently pursuing a number of service contracts for both mid-air refueling and aerial fire-fighting services, and we believe that a contract will be forthcoming in the near future." An earlier release from the company said it also had a couple of MiG-29 fighters that it was hoping to offer as aggressor aircraft for military pilots to practice against.