Another Jet Mysteriously Vanished in 2003

Boeing 727 left Uganda in 2003 and remains missing
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2014 11:11 AM CDT
Philippine Air Force C-130 crew members search over the South China Sea for the missing Malaysian plane.   (AP Photo/Philippine Air Force Western Command)

(Newser) – For those suggesting that the disappearance of Flight 370 is unparalleled in aviation history, Vocativ would like to remind them that another large Boeing jet took off from an airstrip in Angola in 2003 and hasn't been seen since. Big difference: That jet had no passengers aboard, but the circumstances surrounding its disappearance are pretty strange nonetheless. Two mechanics—American Ben Charles Padilla and Congolese assistant John Mikel Mutantu—boarded the Boeing 727 on a Luanda airstrip to get it in shape for its next flight. Neither had a pilot's license, which is why flight controllers were stunned when the plane taxied to the runway and then took off.

Was it Padilla? Mutantu? Both? Hijackers who had slipped aboard? Investigators still don't know, and no sign of the plane has turned up despite an intense international hunt. Some of the theories being tossed around in regard to Flight 370—it crashed into the ocean, it landed secretly, it got shot down by some nation's military—were similarly floated back then. But "we may never know for sure where it went," concluded an earlier investigation by Air & Space magazine. It was at the time the largest aircraft to go missing, but the Malaysian jet will take that distinction if it doesn't turn up. (Read more missing plane stories.)

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