2003 Boeing 727-223 disappearance
N844AA at Chicago O'Hare Airport, 14 years before the incident
|Date||May 25, 2003|
|Site||Quatro de Fevereiro Airport, Luanda, Angola
|Aircraft type||Boeing 727-223|
|Operator||Aerospace Sales & Leasing|
N844AA (serial number 20985) was manufactured in 1975 and formerly owned by American Airlines. Miami-based company Aerospace Sales & Leasing was reported to be its last owner. While on lease to TAAG Angola Airlines it had been grounded and sat idle at Luanda for 14 months, accruing more than $4 million in backdated airport fees, and was one of two at Quatro de Fevereiro in the process of being converted for use by IRS Airlines. The FBI described it as "...unpainted silver in color with a stripe of blue, white, and blue. The plane was formerly in the air fleet of a major airline, but all of the passenger seats have been removed. It is outfitted to carry diesel fuel."
The Conakry sighting is disputed as another ex-American Airlines 727 with registration number N862AA was re-registered in Guinea as 3X-GDO and based there until it was destroyed in the UTA Flight 141 accident at Cadjehoun Airport in Cotonou, Benin.
Shortly before sunset on May 25, 2003, Ben Charles Padilla boarded the plane with a hired mechanic from the Republic of the Congo. Neither man was certified to fly the Boeing 727, which normally requires a three person aircrew. Both men were working with Angolan mechanics to get the plane flight-ready.
The aircraft began taxiing with no communication between the tower and its crew. The plane was maneuvering erratically, and, without clearance, entered a runway. When the aircraft started taxiing down the runway, the control tower tried to make contact, but there was no response, and the tracking transponder was turned off. With its lights off, the aircraft took off, heading southwest over the Atlantic Ocean. Neither the airplane nor the two men have been seen since.
Ben Charles Padilla
Ben Charles Padilla, an aircraft mechanic, flight engineer, and private pilot, was aboard N844AA when it was stolen, and is believed by U.S. authorities to have been at the controls. He has not been seen or heard from since.
Padilla's sister, Benita Padilla-Kirkland, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper that her family suspects Padilla was flying the aircraft and fear that he subsequently crashed somewhere on the African continent or is being held against his will.
- List of aerial disappearances
- Avion Pirata
- Varig Flight 967
- Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
- Flying Tiger Line Flight 739
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- Mueller, Robert S. (25 May 2003). "FBI Seeking Information - Ben Charles Padilla". fbi.gov. Archived from the original on 10 Mar 2006. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
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- "Into thin air". The Sydney Morning Herald. August 15, 2003.
- "The Charley Project: Ben Charles Padilla Jr". charleyproject.org. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
- "African hunt for stolen Boeing". BBC News. June 19, 2003. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
- Das, Saurabh (2 January 2004). "Questions arise over W. Africa jet crash". USA Today. Retrieved 15 July 2013.