On May 25, 2003, a Boeing 727 with the registration number N844AA - formerly owned by American Airlines - was stolen from Quatro de Fevereiro Airport in Luanda, Angola. A Miami-based company called Aerospace Sales & Leasing Co. was reported to be its last owner.
Most intelligence agencies believe the missing plane to be in the hands of terrorists or drug dealers.
N844AA was formerly owned by American Airlines, and was one of two at Quatro de Fevereiro in the process of being converted for use by an Africa-based airline. The aircraft had been sitting idle in Angola for 14 months, and it owed more than $4 million in backdated airport fees.
Reports conflict as to whether it was to be used by TAAG Air Angola, or if it was in the process of being converted to a diesel tanker, with seating removed and attachment of aluminium fuel tanks to the floor.
There were reports that a male boarded the aircraft, but was not seen leaving it. When the aircraft started taxiing down the runway, the control tower tried to make contact, but there was no response. The aircraft was seen to be making abrupt changes in direction while on the taxiways, and even during the takeoff run.
Reportedly, the aircraft was later in the airspace of Seychelles where it asked for permission to land, but disappeared shortly thereafter. It has not been seen since.
Ben Charles PadillaA 51-year-old mechanic from Florida named Ben Charles Padilla was aboard the aircraft during the theft, and is believed by U.S. authorities to have been at the controls of the aircraft during the theft.
Padilla's family have repeatedly stated that they thought he was kidnapped, and that he was in Angola only because the aircraft leasing company had sent him there to participate as an in-flight mechanic for the aircraft's impending flight to the company's headquarters.
There were unconfirmed reports of a struggle onboard during the theft, due to the fact that the aircraft made dangerous maneuvers while taxiing before and during takeoff.
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BEN CHARLES PADILLA
MAY 25, 2003
Age: 50 years old Hair: Brown
Sex: Male Eyes: Brown
Height: 6'2" Race: White
Weight: Unknown Complexion: Light
Remarks: Padilla is a United States citizen from the state of Florida.
On May 25, 2003, at approximately 6 p.m. local time, an airplane took off from DeFevereiro International Airport in Luanda, Angola, with neither clearance nor a flight plan, and has not been seen since. The plane is described as a 200 series advanced 727 jet with a tail number of N844AA, and a serial number of 20985. It is 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.
Law enforcement officials believe that Ben Charles Padilla may have been on board the plane at the time it disappeared. The FBI is interested in locating Padilla, as he may have information as to the whereabouts of the plane.
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