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News Link • Transportation: Air Travel

When Airliners Vanish


In 2009, authorities in the west African country of Mali discovered a 1978 Boeing 727 that had recently burned in an isolated region of the country's northern desert. The aircraft landed there after taking off from Venezuela, intelligence sources later reported, loaded with nine tons of cocaine. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the wholesale value of the cargo was $225 million. Law enforcement officers believe the cocaine was taken north from Mali and eventually smuggled into Europe.

Just two years earlier, that 727 had been the property of Finova Capital, a finance company in Scottsdale, Arizona. Finova sold it in 2007 to a Spain-based subsidiary of West African Aviation. In the two years between its sale and its destruction, the aircraft was owned by three entities in four countries and assigned three different registrations. Its last airworthiness certificate, granted by the Saudi Arabian General Authority of Civil Aviation, had expired. Investigators determined that the airplane had been torched by the crew, but no crew member has been found.

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