by Jan Koppen
Several days ago, I got an offer to buy a Boeing 727-200, which happened to be stored at Cairo airport for a long time. I received some info and photos of the plane, and it immediately reminded me of the 727, which had vanished in Angola some 16 years ago.
This ship must be one of the three former Aerospace Sale and Leasing Inc. Boeing 727-200's. I checked her registration and construction number with the help of Planelogger, and it seemed that the registration and construction number info was a mix-up! According to Planelogger, the vanished 727 was registered TL-ADY, the same registration as the 727, which was for sale! Hard to believe this Planelogger info is correct, but all three aircraft's color scheme seemed identical.
As an OldJets avgeek, I had to find out what happened. First of all, let refresh our memory about this mysterious incident. I searched the World Wide Web and found several interesting articles.
Wikipedia is telling us the following info:
Solen at Quatro de Fevereiro Airport, Luanda, Angola. Its disappearance prompted a worldwide search by the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). No trace of the aircraft has since been found.
The aircraft involved was a Boeing 727-200 manufactured in 1975 and formerly operated by American Airlines who operated the aircraft for 25 years. Its last owner was reported to be Miami-based company Aerospace Sales & Leasing. 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 unpaid 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 red. The [aircraft] 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."
It is believed that shortly before sunset (likely to be 5PM local time) on May 25, 2003, two men boarded the aircraft. One of them was an American pilot and flight engineer, Ben C. Padilla. The other, John M. Mutantu, was a hired mechanic from the Republic of the Congo. Neither man was certified to fly a Boeing 727, which normally requires three aircrew. Both men had been working with Angolan mechanics to get the aircraft flight-ready. Padilla is believed by U.S. authorities to have been at the controls. An airport employee reported only seeing one person on board the aircraft at the time; Other airport officials stated that two men had boarded the aircraft before the incident.
The aircraft began taxiing without communicating with the control tower. It maneuvered erratically and entered a runway without clearance. The tower officers tried to make contact, but there was no response. With no lights the aircraft took off, heading southwest over the Atlantic Ocean before disappearing. Before the incident the aircraft was filled with 53,000 litres (14,000 US gal) of fuel, giving it a range of about 2,400 kilometres (1,500 mi; 1,300 nmi). Neither the aircraft nor the two men have been found. Unlike other plane disappearances, no debris has been found in the ocean from the aircraft.
Padilla's sister, Benita Padilla-Kirkland, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper in 2004 that her family suspected that he was flying the aircraft and feared that he subsequently crashed somewhere in Africa or was being held against his will; a theory which Aerospace Sales & Leasing president Maury Joseph, who'd examined the plane two weeks before its disappearance, agreed with. However, United States authorities have suspected that Joseph's history of accounting fraud involving another company he owned played a part; they believe that the plane's theft was either caused by a business feud or resulted from a scam.
In July 2003 a possible sighting of the missing aircraft was reported in Conakry, Guinea,[and subsequently conclusively dismissed by the United States Department of State.
Reports leaked as part of the United States diplomatic cables leak indicate that the United States searched for the aircraft in multiple countries after the event. A Regional Security Officer searched for it in Sri Lanka without result. A ground search was also conducted by diplomats stationed in Nigeria at multiple airports without finding it. The telegram from Nigeria also stated that the diplomats did not consider likely a landing of the 727 at a major airport, since the aircraft could have been easily identified.
An extensive article published in Air & Space Magazine in September 2010 (see below) was also unable to draw any conclusions on the whereabouts or fate of the aircraft, despite research and interviews with individuals knowledgeable of details surrounding the disappearance.
Tim Wright of Air & Space Magazine had written the following extensive article in 2010:
The 727 that Vanished
A case pursued by the FBI, the CIA, the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security, CENTCOM, and the sister of Ben Padilla
Seven years after her brother disappeared from Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport in Angola, Benita Padilla-Kirkland is trying to persuade the FBI to re-open his case. She believes she has the “new information” agents told her they require. But she suspects that the agency already has more information than agents will admit to.
From This Story
Kirkland’s brother, Ben Charles Padilla, a certified flight engineer, aircraft mechanic, and private pilot, disappeared while working in the Angolan capital, Luanda, for Florida-based Aerospace Sales and Leasing. On May 25, 2003, shortly before sunset, Padilla boarded the company’s Boeing 727-223, tail number N844AA. With him was a helper he had recently hired, John Mikel Mutantu, from the Republic of the Congo. The two had been working with Angolan mechanics to return the 727 to flight-ready status so they could reclaim it from a business deal gone bad, but neither could fly it. Mutantu was not a pilot, and Padilla had only a private pilot’s license. A 727 ordinarily requires three trained aircrew.
According to press reports, the aircraft began taxiing with no communication between the crew and the tower; maneuvering erratically, it entered a runway without clearance. With its lights off and its transponder not transmitting, 844AA took off to the southwest, and headed out over the Atlantic Ocean. The 727 and the two men have not been seen since.
Who was flying 844AA? Had something happened to make Padilla take that desperate chance? Or was someone waiting inside the airplane? Leased to deliver diesel fuel to diamond mines, the 727 carried 10 500-gallon fuel tanks and a few passenger seats in its cabin. Less than two years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 727’s freakish departure triggered a frantic search by U.S. security organizations for what intelligence sources said could have been a flying bomb.
Retired U.S. Marine General Mastin Robeson, commander of U.S. forces in the Horn of Africa when 844AA went missing, says word of the 727 “came up through the intelligence network.” According to Robeson, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) considered moving U.S. fighter aircraft to Djibouti on the Red Sea coast, where the Combined Joint Task Force shares a base with the French military. Robeson continues: “It was never [clear] whether it was stolen for insurance purposes…by the owners, or whether it was stolen with the intent to make it available to unsavory characters, or whether it was a deliberate concerted terrorist attempt. There was speculation of all three.”
Speculation that the theft of 844AA posed a terrorist threat ended, though it’s unclear why. Perhaps National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency technicians saw signs of a crash in satellite imagery—debris or an oil slick in the Atlantic, for example—or evidence that a large aircraft had landed on one of a half-dozen unpaved, 8,000-foot runways in the Congo, north of Angola. Agency spokesperson Susan Meisner would not comment, saying that the NGIA was not the lead agency in the case. (A CIA spokesperson also declined comment, as did a spokesperson from the Department of Homeland Security. FBI agents also refused comment, citing national security concerns.) Perhaps the speculation ended more gradually, after weeks without clues or sightings stretched into months. The disturbed hornet’s nest of a global security alert—the searches, bulletins, and interrogations—quieted, and in 2005, the FBI closed its case. I have filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the CIA and FBI and have followed in at least some of the FBI’s footsteps, interviewing the people who flew 844AA to Angola and worked with it there, hoping to understand how a 727 could just disappear.
“IT REALLY WAS in beautiful condition,” Keith Irwin says of the airliner he acquired in Miami in February 2002. Irwin, 57, a South African entrepreneur who ran a series of information technology companies and, until 2000, a small tourist airline with flights from South Africa to Mozambique, had come to Miami to pick up a different aircraft altogether. Representing a joint venture with a South African company called Cargo Air Transport Systems, Irwin had arranged to lease a 727 and two flight crews—pilot, first officer, and flight engineer—for a year. The air transport company had signed a contract to supply fuel to diamond mines in Angola, where a long civil war had made transporting goods by road almost impossible. The 727, therefore, was to have been delivered with fuel tanks installed in the cabin. The joint venture was backed by a single investor, who had deposited $450,000 in a U.S. bank. Irwin’s job was to manage the flight operations, but the deal for the airplane fell through. Irwin ended up with fuel tanks and no airplane.
That failure stranded six crewmen who had assembled in Miami. “The guys then were desperate for work,” says Irwin. “Most of those guys had not flown in a long time because of the 9/11 story. I said, ‘Look, I can take you on if we can find another aircraft.’ ” And Irwin met Maury Joseph, president of Aerospace Sales and Leasing, Inc. Joseph owned three 727s that had recently been retired by American Airlines. “All three aircraft were almost in mint condition,” says Irwin. “American Airlines had a very good maintenance program.”
New deal: Joseph sold 844AA to Irwin for $1 million and change. According to his records, he received a down payment of $125,000, and says he stipulated that the balance be paid within 30 days. He agreed to remove the passenger seats from the cabin and to allow Irwin to take the airliner to Africa. Irwin says he cannot remember the details of the agreement, but recalled it to be a lease arrangement. In any case, the joint venture made only two payments and defaulted.
Though the two men now differ over the terms of the contract, they agree on one detail: As a condition of the agreement, Irwin was required to take along one of Joseph’s employees, Mike Gabriel, whose job was to make sure that the deal was concluded. “I gave Mike $10,000 and told him to fly with them,” says Joseph. “Stay with the plane till you get the money, and then come on home, and if not, bring the plane home.”
On February 28, 2002, with most of the passenger seats removed and the 10 fuel tanks loaded, 844AA, still in the livery of American Airlines, with a blue stripe down the side and an AA logo fading on its tail, took off for Africa.
Because Irwin’s partners had not arranged a landing permit, it took two weeks for the crew to make their way to Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport, where they arrived on March 14. Irwin, who had not worked in Angola before, realized immediately that the deal was in trouble. The company hiring his partners for deliveries, Kuwachi Dundo, was supposed to pay $220,000 when the airplane and crew landed, but instead the company’s representative made excuses. (Irwin lost almost $140,000 in the first deal and had burned through the rest of the $450,000 by March.)
The crew endured accommodations in a dismal apartment without electricity or drinkable water, near an open sewer. (Gabriel and Irwin didn’t stay with the crew; they had rented an apartment in the back of a house owned by an Angolan air force general.) The only one of the men not troubled by the circumstances they found in Angola was Mike Gabriel. Gabriel, a dealer in aircraft parts and engines, had spent a considerable amount of time in West Africa, and was accustomed to the AK-47s the men saw everywhere, including stacked up behind the bar of a club they frequented. Most worrisome to the crew was that they were required to surrender their passports on arrival. Irwin explains that Kuwachi needed the passports to obtain Angolan licenses for the pilots and flight engineers.
“I was scared to death. I really thought I was going to die,” says Art Powell, one of the flight engineers with the project. Powell had been to Angola before and had spent a year working in Nairobi, Kenya, but this experience was different. He felt intimidated by the people who had hired the crew for the fuel-delivery job. His anxiety was intensified by the presence of a local “helper” who toted an AK-47. The helper was a guard whom Mike Gabriel says he hired because the crew repeatedly voiced concerns about safety.
When Kuwachi got wind of the crews’ unrest (several crew members have admitted that they were planning to steal the aircraft to escape to South Africa or return to the States), the company refused to return the passports. Irwin and members of the crew went to the U.S. Embassy; only then were the passports returned.
By Angolan regulations, Irwin says, 844AA was controlled by the clients who hired it. Prohibited from flying the aircraft out of the country, Irwin booked airline seats and flew the crew members to South Africa. From there, two of the men immediately flew home to the United States. One says he is still owed $17,000. The other four crewmen, still hoping for the money they’d been promised, stayed on.
By April, Irwin was extricating himself from the deal made by Cargo Air Transport Systems and had found a new backer, an Angolan who arranged deliveries for a different client. Irwin and the remaining crew returned to Luanda and began flying the shipments for the new company. Mike Gabriel placed the total number of flights made at 17.
“It’s the most dangerous flying in the world,” says a crewman who asked that his name be withheld because he fears for his career. A U.S. Air Force veteran, he likened the deliveries to flying into a combat zone. When they approached the airfields, the crew tried to stay at an altitude above small-arms fire for as long as possible, then spiraled down to land.
“I’ve been a [flight deck crew member] for 30 years,” he says. “For me, it was an opportunity to make a couple of bucks... and when everything started falling apart, I probably hung on twice as long as common sense dictated. But I had too much invested at that point to bail out.”
Many of the runways, says Mike Gabriel, aren’t paved and aren’t like the ones U.S. crews are accustomed to. “On some, you land uphill, then go downhill, then uphill again,” he says.
At one airstrip, the anonymous crewman says, just before 844AA arrived, a 727 flying for a competing company crashed on landing and skidded off the runway. Although the crew survived, he says, some local residents were killed. “We gave [the other flight crew] a lift out of there but not before going over to their airplane and stealing some parts that we needed. That’s when I decided it was time to go home.”
Before he left, he says, a “big African showed up with a briefcase full of hundred-dollar bills. It was payday.” Besides paying the crew, the money was supposed to pay off accumulated airport fees and fuel costs.
“After that,” the crewman says, “I created a family emergency…. I said, ‘My mother is sick.’ ” He promised he’d return in two weeks and left. “I had no intentions of going back, of course. I didn’t get anywhere near full pay, but I got enough that I could pay my bills and make it not completely worthless.”
By the end of April, all of the Americans except Mike Gabriel had left.
Irwin hired a local crew and continued to deliver fuel to the mines, but he was ready to leave too. The civil war in Angola had ended. Competition among fuel haulers, Irwin says, had intensified, and he was growing more uncomfortable with the delivery deals. His partners were claiming part ownership of the aircraft, but Maury Joseph had not been paid. Joseph, meanwhile, sent a crew to swap an engine from the 727. Finally, Irwin says, he was being followed—by a local man named Antonio, who, Irwin believes, was working for one of his partners. “I would turn around,” Irwin says, “and spot Antonio watching me from a car.”
Irwin began wedging a chair under the door handle of his hotel room “just like you see in the movies.” One night, he heard a key card slide into the slot on the door. The lock released. “I started yelling and whoever it was ran,” he says. The hotel security guards questioned the night clerk and learned that he had accepted a bribe to provide the key card. Irwin left the country the next day and didn’t go back.
Maury Joseph fired Mike Gabriel some time that spring. “He kept convincing me that next week, next month…,” Joseph says, referring to the outstanding balance owed on the airplane.
In May 2002, the only part of the original 844AA project left at the Luanda airport was 844AA.
THE SON OF A FLORIDA MILLWRIGHT, Ben Charles Padilla Jr. was always mechanically gifted, says sister Benita Padilla-Kirkland, and from the time he was a boy, he loved airplanes. In his mid-20s he learned to fly and became certified as an airframe-and-powerplant mechanic. He lived in south Florida with two children, one his own, and a fiancée of 15 years. (Efforts to contact her were unsuccessful.) Though the two weren’t married, Padilla gave her power of attorney in his absence and made her the executor of his estate, according to Padilla-Kirkland, and left her almost everything in his will.
“He certainly knew the airplane,” says Maury Joseph. Padilla was a freelancer, who had worked for Joseph on two jobs before traveling to Angola to repossess 844AA. Padilla had worked extensively in Africa. He helped Joseph ferry a 727 to Nigeria for a sale and during the negotiations stayed to explain the aircraft systems. “If you said, ‘Go to Cambodia and do this’ or ‘Go to Indonesia and do this’ or ‘Go to South America and do this’ he would do it. [When in Nigeria] I was with Ben daily for a month or more,” says Joseph. “You become fairly close to somebody when you’re with them day and night.” Joseph trusted him.
But another employer formed a different opinion. Jeff Swain, who works near Miami in international aircraft sales and leasing, had hired Padilla in the late 1990s for an airline he was operating in Indonesia—and fired him. “We had certain standards of conduct we expected from flight engineers,” Swain says, adding, when pressed, “He was too involved in chasing the local girls. It was an unstructured environment, and he just went bad.” Swain says that after Padilla was fired, he stayed on in Indonesia for two months and racked up a $10,000 bill that he told the hotel the airline would pay. “We finally had him deported,” says Swain.
Padilla once showed Swain a photograph of a woman with small children and told him it was his wife in Mozambique, but Swain says, “I never believed it was real. Ben was always marveling everyone with his bullshit stories.” One of Padilla’s friends also saw a photograph of a wife, but insists that she lived in Tanzania. Another acquaintance was told that Padilla had a wife in Indonesia.
Benita Padilla-Kirkland says she’s heard the stories, but believes her brother would have told her if he’d had another family. She doesn’t doubt the relationships, but is convinced that Padilla was helping to support people he’d befriended. “There might have been more than one of those situations,” she says.
What in February 2002 had been a retired airliner in excellent condition had by fall become a junker worth only the price of its engines. And Maury Joseph found a buyer for them: Jeff Swain. Swain says that Irwin and the crews had ruined the airplane. “It would never be of any value again,” he says. “You can’t put water tanks full of fuel in an airplane and expect it to be good. Totally stupid. But it had really good engines on it—maybe 1,000 cycles since new.”
In November 2002, Joseph and Ben Padilla flew to Nigeria to deliver a 727, and Joseph hired Padilla to fly to Angola the following April to pay the outstanding fines and hire mechanics to return the 727 to service. “If [the company that contracted for fuel deliveries] wasn’t paying Mr. Irwin, you can assume he wasn’t paying anybody,” says Joseph. “He probably hadn’t paid the fuel bill. He didn’t pay the navigation fees, the landing fees, and certainly wasn’t paying the parking fees at the airport. So all of those became things that we had to resolve and I had to pay all those.”
Padilla worked with Air Gemini, a Luanda-based airline that operated a repair station. The return-to-service process was progressing steadily, according to Joseph, and in May 2003, acting as Joseph’s agent, Padilla hired a pilot and copilot from Air Gemini to help him deliver the aircraft to Johannesburg, South Africa, where Joseph was waiting with his new customer. A day or two before the aircraft was to leave Luanda, Padilla made plans with Air Gemini to take the aircraft from the company hangar out to the main runway, where he intended to run the three engines up to full power for a systems check.
Late in the morning on May 26, when Joseph and Swain were expecting 844AA to land, Joseph took a call from an Air Gemini employee, who demanded to know why another crew had flown the airplane out of Luanda. “He was kind of hard on me,” Joseph says. After the shock wore off, he telephoned the U.S. Embassy in South Africa to report the disappearance, then called his wife back in Florida to tell her to call the FBI. From Washington, D.C., the Department of State, notified by the U.S. Embassy in Angola, sent a message to every American embassy in Africa: Alert aviation officials that an airliner has been stolen, and call every airport with a runway long enough to handle a 727.
For the U.S. government, fraud was one theory that could explain the aircraft’s disappearance. “Part of the intelligence was that the airplane was in a bad state of repair,” says General Robeson. “That was one of the speculations, that it was an insurance fraud situation. You know, ‘Oops, my plane was hijacked/stolen by terrorists and now I can do an insurance claim on it.’ So, that was probably as valid of an explanation when all was said and done as anything. But we just left it as an unknown.”
Among intelligence officials, the suspicions of fraud may have been aroused by knowledge of an incident in Maury Joseph’s past. During the 1990s, Joseph was CEO of a cargo airline named Florida West (which later went bankrupt). The Securities and Exchange Commission charged him in a civil case with falsifying financial statements and defrauding investors. The court imposed a fine and barred Joseph from acting as an officer in a publicly held company.
But Joseph, when contacted by the FBI, volunteered to take a lie-detector test, and Swain, who was there when Joseph took the call from Air Gemini, is certain that Joseph had nothing to do with the airplane’s disappearance. “Look, nobody was more amazed by this situation than Maury,” Swain says. He describes Joseph as utterly confused by the information that the airplane was gone.
The suspicion that Ben Padilla could have played any part in an insurance fraud angers his younger brother. “If anybody would say to me that my brother was involved with this,” says Joe Padilla, his voice tightening, “they’re full of it. ’Cuz I know my brother. He’s not gonna do nothing crooked. I know that for a fact.” He is convinced that more than one person was already on board, waiting, and that they forcibly took the aircraft, and killed Ben and John Mutantu.
“I keep hoping against hope that maybe he’s tucked away somewhere,” says Benita Padilla-Kirkland. The new information she passed along to the FBI was a possible sighting of the aircraft, one of many reported over the years.
Mike Gabriel believes the airplane crashed in the Atlantic Ocean soon after takeoff. One crew member from the fuel delivery operation thinks the Angolan air force shot it down with a missile. A Luandan pilot says the word there is that the aircraft went north and vanished near Kinshasa, Congo. One of Ben Padilla’s friends says the airplane was disassembled for parts in Bujumbura, Burundi, on Tanzania’s western border.
Picking through the fragments of 844AA’s history, I found a story of broken deals, disappointments, and betrayals, but no real clues to the aircraft’s destination that day in 2003. We may never know for sure where it went. It is the largest aircraft ever to have disappeared without a trace.
CONSTRUCTION NUMBER 20985 / reg. N844AA
Boeing 727-225 N844AA, which was manufactured in 1975 with construction number 20985 enjoyed a long and adventurous career. After 16 years of faithful service with first owner American Airlines she operated for IRS airlines from Nigeria in basic AA colors but with a blue instead of a red cheatline. If she was owned by Aerospace Sale and Leasing Inc. is not mentioned by Planelogger. In February 2003 she was registrated to Irwin Air. On May 25, 2003 she mysteriously left Angola and was not seen after. Strange enough Planelogger is mentioning that this Boeing was registrated to CentrAfrique Air Express as TL-ADY since March 19, 2008. (Was this not the c/n. of ship 21385?). Keep in mind TL-ADY was seen during March and July. 2008 parked at Sharjah with CentrAfrique Air Express titles. (airlines.net) and TL-ADY was seen in since November. 2009 stored Cairo with CentrAfrique Air Express. According my findings a lot of peculiarities. Could have made Planelogger such mistakes with the id of such a unique plane.
The Sydney Morning Herald published the following info:
A Boeing 727, whose sudden disappearance in Angola in May unnerved US intelligence agencies, reappeared last week in the Guinean capital Conakry before vanishing once again, British newspaper The Guardian reports.
Washington has been working with African governments in the past month in a frantic bid to hunt down the cargo plane, amid fears the aircraft could be used by terrorists in a repeat of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
The paper said the plane was seen on June 28 by a Canadian pilot, Bob Strother, in Conakry, sporting a new coat of paint and a Guinean registration number.
But Mr Strother told the paper that two letters of the plane's old tail number - N844AA - were still showing, proving the aircraft was the same Boeing that was being sought by US diplomats throughout Africa.
"There's absolutely no doubt it's the same aircraft, the old registration is clearly visible," he was quoted as saying.
"Whoever owns it must have some important friends to get it reregistered in two days: going by the book, the whole process usually takes a couple of months," he added.
"We only saw it that one time, now it's gone."
The plane, which was converted into a fuel tanker, is owned by a member of West Africa's Lebanese business community and was being used to carry goods between Beirut and Conakry, said Mr Strother.
But is this information of Mr. Strother correct. I doubt it after checking the info of construction number 21089. Another example from the three plane strong Aerospace Sale and Leasing Inc. fleet.
AFP published the following info:
The 28-year-old jetliner was stolen from under the noses of the control tower at the airport in the Angolan capital Luanda on May 25 and until now had not been sighted. It had been parked at the airport for 14 months.
Angolan state radio said shortly after its disappearance that it had been chartered by the Angolan airline Airangol but was grounded after being banned from overflying Angolan territory on account of a series of irregularities.
While US officials are concerned the plane could have been stolen by terrorists, the most likely scenario is that the aircraft was stolen as part of a business dispute or financial scam, said a western diplomat in Sierra Leone, quoted by The Guardian.
CONSTRUCTION NUMBER 21089 / reg. N862AA
Planelogger tells us that American Airlines operated this rather immaculate Boeing ‘Three-holer’ N862AA, with construction number 21089, on their scheduled flights for 15 years after which she was withdrawn from use at Mojave. According Richard Potts of Jetphotos she was she was operating during 2002 for Arian Afghan Airlines, via broker Alpha Omega Airways of Swaziland. She flew from Kabul in a anonymous all white livery without titles and registrated YA-YAL.
Her sale to Aerospace Sales and Leasing Inc. was not mentioned by Planelogger. This same site told us that during June 2003 she was ferried from Miami to Conakry in basic American colors but with a blue instead of a red cheatline. (Strange to change her livery from white to basic AA colors again. Hard to believe). The next month she was seen at Dubai and Sharjah airport. From October 2003 she operated night pax services to Conakry and Abidjan for the Guinean airline Union Africans de Guinée (UTA). During June she seemed to have been registrated 3X-GDM to UTA. Planelogger mentioned that during October 2003 the Boeing had been registrated to Libyan Arab Airlines as 3D-AAK and stored in Libya.
So far a lot of conflicting info but it gets a bit more weirder. As mentioned Union des Transports Africains de Guinée operates two flights a week from Conakry, Guinea to Beirut and Dubai with their newly acquired ex-American Airlines Boeing 727. Mentioned registrations in various reports are 3X-GDM (c/n. 21089) or 3X-GDO (cn/21370). It seems 3X-GDO had replaced 3X-GDM on this flight.
On December 25, 2003, UTA Flight 141 departed Conakry, Guinea
for a scheduled flight to Beirut, Lebanon with a planned intermediate stop at Cotonou. At Cotonou nine of the 92 passengers deplaned and 73 passengers boarded the flight. It was a warm afternoon at a temperature of 32 deg. C with a light breeze as the 727 taxied to runway 24. Runway 06/24 is an asphalt runway, measuring 2400 (7874 feet) meters with a 61m (199 feet) overrun zone. According to FAA runway length requirement calculations, a fully laden Boeing 727-200 with JT8D-9 engines and a 25-degrees flap setting would, given the weather and airfield elevation, need a runway length of approx. 8000 feet. Apparently the 727 barely climbed after takeoff, causing the main
undercarriage to strike the roof of a 2-3 meters high small building housing radio equipment. The operator inside the building suffered injuries. The plane continued, smashed through the airport boundary fence, crashed and broke up on the shoreline.
Number three from the Aerospace Sale and Leasing Inc. fleet is the Boeing 727-200 which is offered for sale by ‘Our man in Cairo’. The following is the info on this plane.
CONSTRUCTION NUMBER 21385 / reg. N844AA
This Boeing 727-200 made its first flight during April 1978, before being delivered new to American Airlines. She was registrated N873AA. When her career with AA was over she was sold during October 2002 to KCP leasing. In June 2005 she was registrated Wells Fargo Bank. According Planelogger the Boeing was ferried in May 2006 from Halifax to Tripoli, Libya, via Santa Maria, Azores. If she was ever owned by Aerospace Sale and Leasing Inc. is not clear to me. During August 2006 she was sold to Damascene Airways as YK-DGL and ferried to Damascus, Syria. The same month she was seen in service between Damascus and Cairo in basic AA colors but with a bleu instead of a red cheatline. In July 2007 Damascene stopped operating YK-DGL. According the Central African Republic Certificate of Registration she was registrated TL-ADY to the Canadian Mr. Ali H. Wehbe of CentrAfrique Express on September 23, 2008. Since 2009 she was seen stored at Cairo. In August this year the 727 is for sale for a mere USD 700K!
A very scruffy and weathered Boeing 727-200 TL-ADY (c/n. 21385) at Cairo. Photo credit : ‘Our man in Cairo’.
“I’m leaving on a Jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again”(John Denver). N844AA (c/n. 20985) departing Chicago. Photo credit: Bob Garrard
Typical shot from Miami in the late 90' one Boeing 727 (N844AA) waiting for take off clearence while a other B727 (N872AA) arriving at runway 09L. Photo credit: Airwim
American had a lot of 727's in her fleet.
N844AA (c/n. 20985) basking in the Florida sun. Photo credit: Brian Stevenson
Seen here are 2 ex-American 727's being prepared for their new owner IRS Airlines. The 727 in the front has no registration yet but I believe it was N843AA (later to be registered 5N-RIR). N844AA in the back was stolen on May 25, 2003 from Luanda, Angola. Photo credit: Justin Cederholm Opa Locka January 2002
N844AA at an unkown location. . Photo credit: unkown
A, delivered fuel to diamond mines, where there were only clay landing strips. (Mike Gabriel)
Stuck in dirt, workers from an Angolan mining town help to shift fuel to the left wing and dig the airplane out. (Mike Gabriel)
Wanted by the FBI - Ben Charles Padilla. Luanda, Angola. May 25, 2003.
One of the mining towns where 844AA delivered diesel fuel for generators. (Mike Gabriel)
N862AA (c/n. 21089) on short final at Miami. Photo credit: Boeing 727 Data Center.
White looks better when it gets old and dull. YA-FAL (c/n. 21089) at an Afghan airport in November 2002. Photo credit: Richard Potts.
3D-AAK (c/n. 21089) on a cramped Tripoli, Libya ramp still in her white uniform. Photo credit: Aviafan.
Keep in mind; the scheme differs from YA-FAL ea. Nose is black, engine #1 is metallic and the tail is also partly metalic!
3X-GDO (c/n. 21370) is seen here basking in the sun at Sharjah airport in December 2003. On 25th of that same month she crashed at Cotonou. Photo credit: Torben Guse
UTA’s 3X-GDM (c/n. 21089) warms its natural metal finish in the the strong sun at an unkonw location. Photo credit: Boeing 727 Data Center. This Lebanees company seemed to have a very mysterious, ownership!
Cleared skin Boeing 727-223 N862AA (c/n. 21089), most probably at Mojave. Photo credit: Boeing 727 Data Center.
TL-ADY (c/n. 21385) with CentrAfrique Air Express titles at Cairo. The airplane’s paint as faded extremely due to ultra-violet exposure. Photo credit: Sokratis Moutidis/Airpics.net
TL-ADY (c/n. 21385) has faded paint and flat tires. Photo credit:’ Our man in Cairo’.
C/n. 21385 standard airworthiness certificate which belong to TL-ADY.
TL-ADY's Certificate of Registration in the Central African Republic.