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10 Unsolved Airplane Mysteries

        Science | Modern

3
The Stolen Airliner
A former UNITA fighter covers his ears as a plane arrives to transport families displaced in Angola's brutal 27-year civil war which ended the year before in 2002. Natalie Behring-Chisholm/Getty Images
A former UNITA fighter covers his ears as a plane arrives to transport families displaced in Angola's brutal 27-year civil war which ended the year before in 2002. Natalie Behring-Chisholm/Getty Images

In May 2003, a Boeing 727 owned by a Florida-based leasing company, was undergoing repairs at an airport in Luanda, Angola. Suddenly, it rolled onto a runway without getting permission from the tower and took off to the southwest in an erratic fashion, with lights off and no transponder signaling.

On board were Ben Charles Padilla, an experienced mechanic and flight engineer who was supervising the repairs, and his recently hired Congolese assistant, John Mikel Mutantu. Neither was trained to fly a 727 – Padilla had only a private pilot's license, and Mutantu had nothing. But both men and the plane disappeared and were never seen again.

Authorities initially suspected that terrorists might be responsible, or else it was an insurance scam. Now they seem to lean toward some sort of hijacking for profit [source: Wright].


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