Missing Boeing 727-223
Was it misplaced?
Or it could have been stolen for a multitude of reasons…it’s anyone’s guess.
So the shortened less detailed but to drum up interest version goes a lot like this:
On May 25, 2003 two men were seen working on a Boeing 727-223, tail number N844AA at Quatro de Fevereiro Airport, Luanda, Angola.
Neither Ben Padilla or his coworker had a commercial pilot’s license and a jetliner such as this one did technically require a three manned crew to fly it. Technically speaking of course. At any rate, after having taxied onto the runway for a scheduled engine test the plane suddenly and quite unexpectedly made an unauthorized takeoff never to be seen again. Whomever was flying the plane had no communication with the tower and the transponder to the plane had been disabled as luck would have it.
It was never seen on radar as far as anyone really knows…
It has been said that to this day, no trace of the plane has ever been found. Being that it was post 9/11, just about every agency in the world was at one time searching for the plane, yet those searches left investigators with empty hands.
That is the exciting played up part of the story but here is the background:
Ben Charles Padilla, was a certified flight engineer, aircraft mechanic, and private pilot who worked for Florida-based Aerospace Sales and Leasing.
His coworker, a man he recently hired was John Mikel Mutantu, from the Republic of the Congo.
They had been working on the plane so that it could be reclaimed from a business deal gone bad and it has been said that neither could fly it.
The plane was eased to deliver diesel fuel to diamond mines, and it carried 10 500-gallon fuel tanks and a few passenger seats in its cabin. Because it disappeared less than 2 years after 9/11 it triggered quite a frantic and massive search, naturally.
Now retired U.S. Marine General Mastin Robeson told Air & Space magazine “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.”
At some point the idea of the plane having been taken by terrorists sort of died off and wandered away. Many speculated that it could have been because evidence of a crash had been found somewhere such as an oil slick, debris etc.
In 2005 the FBI closed the case they had open it without so much as a word as to why they just up and decided to close the case. Leaving Ben’s sister Benita, with no answers, closure or any idea of what happened to her brother.
The type of work that Ben was in could be tough leaving many of the men out of work for longer than normal periods of time. The plane Ben and John had been commissioned to work on was part of a business deal gone bad or some type of “misunderstanding,” i.e. a purchase or lease…payment you get the idea.
It had been reported that several crew members who were in Angola, admitted at the time they had planned to steal the plane, they said so that they could either return to South Africa or the US.
Ben was described as mechanically gifted and really just a hard working guy, not the type that would just up and steal a plane, he had nothing to gain by doing so and everything to lose so he really isn’t a good suspect.
With two companies sort of feuding over the plane as it was it’s also no surprise that they blamed one another for the disappearance of the plane.
Yet, the plane was still never found and no evidence of foul play caused by either company had ever been found.
So, where is the plane?
In all likelihood, the plane was stolen in the hope that those who stole it could fly home or part it out somewhere. For the just about every agency to just sort of quietly fade out in terms of searching for the plane without a worry as to where it has gone off to, well that is too much of a coincidence.
The plane most likely crashed over the Atlantic while whomever stole it, not being a trained commercial pilot and not having a qualified flight crew attempted to escape in it. That or it was shot down by the Angolan Military. Ben, most likely was forced to participate, not being the type to have ever thought of stealing it.
When looking at individuals in a line of work that is not stable, who come from third world countries to work in said field, desperate times, well they call for desperate measures sometimes.
Sadly, for Ben’s sister however, no one has given her the answers she has been searching for. She deserves to know what happened to her brother after all of this time, if for no other reason, to allow for her to have some closure and some peace finally.
Cristal M Clark
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