Skyjacking or Abduction?
The Unsolved Disappearance of Angola 727 || Mysteriously Unsolved #1
A plane mysteriously flies off and vanishes.
If someone asked you what you thought was the most notable incident involving the disappearance of a plane, none would blame you if Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was the first to come to mind. Malaysian Airlines 370 vanished seemingly into thin air back in 2014, and while few pieces of debris have been found, there are still few answers as to what exactly happened to the aircraft. Although the mystery behind Flight 370 continues to endure, it is hardly the only case of an airplane disappearing into thin air, leaving an air of mystery in its place.
Eleven years before the disappearance of Flight 370, another Boeing 727 known as Angola 727, vanished from an airport in 2003. It was seen taxing down the runway without clearance and no communication between itself and the control tower before flying off out of view during an unscheduled take off at the Quatro de Fevereiro Airport in Luanda, Angola. Neither the aircraft nor the two reported occupants on board at the time have been seen since.
Who was on it?
At the time of the Boeing 272’s unauthorized departure, two men were reportedly known to be on board, (though some sources say there was only one man). Regardless of how many people were actually on board at the time, all reports do concur that 50-year-old American pilot and flight engineer Ben C. Padilla was on board. According to the reports that mention more than one person being on board, the second man was a hired flight mechanic from the Republic of Congo by the name of John M. Mutantu.
The problem with this is that neither men were certified to pilot a Boeing 727, so why they were on the plane when it left and who was precisely was steering it is unknown. Despite this, Padilla is strongly suspected to have been the one piloting it, though why is another mystery.
Unscheduled Take Off
At approximately six in the evening local time on May 23, 2003, the Boeing 727, with the registration N844AA, was observed taxing down the runaway at Quatro de Fevereiro Airport in Luanda, Angola without clearance. It was observed maneuvering erratically, all of the lights on the aircraft were off and all communication attempts by the control tower were unsuccessful. Before anyone could stop it, it was then observed flying off, heading southwest over the Atlantic Ocean until it was out of view.
Aftermath and Search
Following the incident, a worldwide search for the plane was initiated involving the F.B.I, C.I.A, the United States Department of State, Homeland Security, and United States Central Command (CENTCOM). Despite efforts made by all involved, the plane and its unauthorized occupants have yet to be located.
While many theories can about following the incident, none have proven to explain what happened.
In July 2003, there was a possible sighting reported in Conakry, Guinea; however, the United States Department of States have since conclusively dismissed this.
In 2004, Padilla’s sister Benita Padilla-Kirkland told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper that the family believed that her brother was flying the plane, also expressing their fear that he must have subsequently crashed in Africa or being held against his will.
Several reports of the incident during the United States diplomatic cables leak in 2010 indicated that the United States searched for the aircraft in multiple countries following the event. A Regional Security Officer searched for it in Sri Lanka without result. A ground search also conducted by diplomats stationed in Nigeria at multiple airports failed to locate the aircraft as well. The telegram from Nigeria also stated that the diplomats did not consider it likely that the 727 successfully landed at a major airport.
Furthermore, in 2010 an extensive article was published in Air & Space Magazine. The report was not able to draw any conclusions on the whereabouts nor the fate of the Boeing 727 either, despite all of the research and interviews of individuals with knowledge of the incident.
Like with all mysteries, some will end up on the forefront of people’s minds than others. Despite this, that does not mean that the answers to a mystery, however small, do not deserve to be found. One day, all of the questions surrounding the plane and the mystery behind it will be known.
Air & Space Magazine article
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From a missing plane to a woman who reportedly went missing on the same day her husband was discharged from the Army.
Nicole Henley is a writer and storyteller. She’s an East-coast girl who’s obsessed with shows like The X-Files, Buffy and almost every crime procedural series under the sun. Writing the story is merely half the journey. When she’s not covering cold cases or mysteries, she’s watching movies or writing poetry, short stories, and flash fiction that may or may not be based on horror.