The Mystery of the 727 That Vanished



In 2003, Boeing aircraft mechanic Ben Padilla disappeared while working in the Angola capital of Luanda. Padilla boarded the company’s Boeing 727, along with recently hired helper John Mutantu. The pair had been working to return the 727 to flight-ready status so they could reclaim it from a business deal gone bad, but neither could fly it. Mutantu wasn’t a pilot and Padilla only had a private pilot’s license. A 727 requires three trained aircrew. Out of the blue, the aircraft began taxiing, with no communication between the crew and the tower — maneuvering erratically — and entered a runway without clearance. With its lights off and its transponder not transmitting, the plane took off, heading out over the Atlantic Ocean. The 727 and the two men have not been seen since. The history of the plane revealed broken deals, disappointments, and betrayals, but no real clues as to the plane’s destination. There's no clear-cut determination whether Padilla and Mutantu were the only people on the plane, or perhaps if someone had been hiding aboard and stole the plane with the men on it. It’s the largest aircraft ever to have disappeared without a trace.