From Air & Space
|The Boeing 727, tail number 844AA|
On May 25, 2003, shortly before sunset, Ben Charles Padilla, a certified flight engineer, aircraft mechanic, and private pilot, boarded Florida-based Aerospace Sales and Leasing’s Boeing 727-223, tail number N844AA.The location was Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport in Angola.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.
The reporter assigned to the story for Air & Space never really found an answer. ”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,” he wrote. “We may never know for sure where it went. It is the largest aircraft ever to have disappeared without a trace.”
Now it is the second-largest.