By Russ Niles, Editor-in-Chief
One of the most unusual hangar queens in the U.S. got a little sun and exercised its considerable muscles last week, but the fate of the Il-78 cargo plane is still not clear. As we reported in 2010, the Russian-built cargo plane has been at Sawyer International Airport in Marquette, Mich., since 2009 after the crew flying it from Texas to Pakistan was arrested and deported for immigration violations. Last week, the aircraft was rolled out of a hangar and mechanics started all four engines, according to the local Fox News channel. However, those doing the work weren't saying what significance, if any, the engine test had.
The aircraft landed in Marquette on July 17, 2009, and the crew, who had expired visas, were deported shortly after. For more than two years the aircraft languished on the ramp while the courts determined who owned it. Although it was registered to a Florida company, a Texas maintenance company said it was owed money for work performed and it briefly laid claim to the aircraft, which is the only N-registered Il-78. However, it turns out a Gibraltar-based holding company called Headlands Ltd. held a $1 million lien against the aircraft and a court finally awarded it ownership in March of 2012. Headlands moved the plane to a hangar for an estimated $500,000 worth of work to make it flyable. The Il-78 is still in widespread use in some areas of the world and has a cargo hauling capacity of about 110,000 pounds.