A few readers complained that my last aviation mystery was not a mystery at all. So, in celebration of Halloween, I present a real aviation mystery.
In May of 2003, a Boeing 727 took flight under mysterious circumstances from Luanda airport in the southwest African country of Angola. I say mysterious circumstances because the aircraft had been sitting idle in Angola for over a year; it owed more than $4 million in backdated airport fees. A lone white male boarded the aircraft, made some shaky turns around the taxiway, and then soared off into the African clouds.
How, exactly, do you steal a 153-foot, 200,000-pound aircraft?
The CIA and the United States State Department became involved with the case when it was uncovered that the 727 had taken on about 14,000 gallons of fuel prior to its unauthorized departure. The interior of the plane had been stripped to convert it into a fuel tanker - ten 500 gallon aluminum tanks were bolted to the floor where American Airlines passengers formerly sat.
Satellite imagery was used to observe nearly every possible airport within range of Angola - but nothing was found.
As with any large piece of equity, there were several individuals attempting to take control of ownership. One man, Miami aircraft broker Mike Gabriel, even flew to Africa to make a claim on the aircraft days before it disappeared. It should be noted that Gabriel was convicted of importing 5,000 pounds of marijuana in the 1980's.
To this day, the Angolan Boeing 727 - which you can research as N844AA - has never been found. Current theories assume it was either crashed in the African jungles for insurance purposes, relocated to an anonymous chop-shop to avoid repossession, or turned over to African guerilla armies to assist with their gem smuggling.
This weekend, I...
Three years ago (July 2002), Russian Bashkirian Airlines flight 2937 collided with a DHL cargo aircraft over southern Germany, killing 71 people.
Both aircraft were flying under supervision of Swiss air traffic control. Peter Nielsen, the only air traffic controller on duty at the time, gave the Bashkirian Airlines flight warning that it was dangerously approaching the DHL cargo craft. With a mere 44 seconds to spare, and following Nielsens's directions, the Russian aircraft descended directly into the path of the freighter. At around 11:43pm local time, the two airplanes collided in mid-air, and 71 persons perished.
Mr. Nielsen had wrongly instructed the Bashkirian Airlines plane to descend, even though its onboard warning equipment told it to climb. His colleague had taken an unauthorized break, leaving Mr. Nielsen with a heavy workload and two air traffic control stations to monitor. But whether or not this collision was a result of faulty air traffic control is not the purpose of this post.
Here is where it gets interesting: Vitaly Kaloyev, a Russian architect whose family was onboard the doomed Bashkirian Airlines flight 2937, took matters into his own hands and murdered the Swiss air traffic controller on duty at the time of the accident.
Vitali Kaloyev with his daughter Diana, who was killed in the crash. Kaloyev participated in the wreckage search for the bodies and located his own daughter's corpse.
According to investigators, on February 21 Vitali Kaloyev arrived in Zurich and checked in to the Welcome-Inn in the suburb of Kloten. The hotel is not far from where Peter Nielsen, the 36-year-old Danish air traffic controller widely blamed for the 2002 crash, lived with his wife and three children.
On the afternoon of February 24, he set off for Mr Nielsen's house. A neighbour spotted Mr Kaloyev and asked what he wanted. He waved a piece of paper with Mr Nielsen's name on it. The neighbour pointed to Mr Nielsen's front door, but instead of knocking, Mr Kaloyev sat down in the garden.
Mr Nielsen, who had lived in Switzerland since 1995, spotted the intruder, went outside and asked what he wanted. Swiss detectives say his children went into the garden as well; his wife called them back, and was still inside when she heard a "kind of scream". She rushed out to discover her husband in a pool of blood.
Yesterday Mr. Kaloyev, the Russian architect, was sentenced to eight years in a Swiss prison for the premeditated homicide of Peter Nielsen, the Swiss air traffic controller.
One of my best friends from high school works for a $300 million Nasdaq-listed software company. They recently bought a Delhi-based instant messaging team.
So now Blake, my friend from high school, is going to Delhi, India for two weeks to help integrate the new team of 15 software engineers with their other 400 recently appointed American, Australian and Romanian coworkers.
Blake will be setting up domain controllers, Exchange servers, DNS, DHCP, WINS and IP telephony services at the new office in Shashtri Park (Delhi's new IT complex).
We're watching the movie Gandhi this weekend (at Zach's suggestion - it was great!), and we are eating as much spicy Indian vegetables as our stomaches can tolerate. It is preparation for his two weeks abroad in a foreign land - and for my own Saturday indulgence in a culture that I visited almost a year ago.
Update Later that night, Blake and I went to the Diwali Mela & Garbha Night at the Global Mall in Norcross, Georgia. We ate even more Indian food and experienced a few terribly awkward situations as the only caucasian attendees to the otherwise crowded event. I am confident that our Saturday of Indian culture immersion was enough to last the both of us for a long time. (Last year, I was in Mumbai for the first days of Diwali fireworks.)
First, a belated THANK YOU to my California friend Noah Kagan. He went all the way to Thailand to get me another shirt from Raja's World-Famous Tailor. If you're thinking about going to Thailand, check out Noah's personal website and drop him a line.
I spent this last weekend in New York City with some friends. While I was there, I did lots of fun things.
Zach Klein was my lovable host for the weekend. He said, "For someone who travels so much, I can't believe you're so bad at it." And it's true! I missed my flight on the way back, but it was only $25 to change the ticket on Delta. I highly suggest flying on Delta - the experience was painless. I do not suggest taking the AirTrain from JFK airport after 10:00pm - it took me about one hour just to get to Jamaica Station.
Alright, back to work. Our company's big trade show and convention - the National Business Aviation Association's Annual Meeting - is being held in Orlando on November 9 - 11 this year. I'll be writing press releases, preparing PowerPoint presentations, making Press Kits, trade show posters, booth layouts and new business cards during the next two weeks.
Two sugar-swindlers caught red handed in our neighborhood tonight!
I eat a lot of take-out food. With each order I amass a small stack of napkins. Restaurants love to give away napkins- they are inexpensive marketing tools, right?
Today I counted: I threw away fourteen napkins from three different restaurants. Food for thought.
or Taiwan and Korea