how to steal a Boeing 727

February 6th, 2017 at 2:33:42 PM permalink
reno
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 51
Posts: 755
Here's a photo from 1989 of Boeing 727-223 serial number N844AA:



The aircraft had been sitting idle for 14 months, parked at an airport in Angola. Years earlier, the American Airlines seat rows had been removed and the plane had been converted into a cargo plane to deliver diesel fuel to African diamond mines.

Quote: Smithsonian Air & Space
Ben Charles Padilla, a certified flight engineer, aircraft mechanic, and private pilot, disappeared while working in the Angolan capital, Luanda, for Florida-based Aerospace Sales and Leasing. On May 25, 2003, shortly before sunset, Padilla boarded the company’s Boeing 727-223, tail number N844AA. With him was a helper he had recently hired, John Mikel Mutantu, from the Republic of the Congo. The two had been working with Angolan mechanics to return the 727 to flight-ready status so they could reclaim it from a business deal gone bad, but neither could fly it. According to press reports, the aircraft began taxiing with no communication between the crew and the tower; maneuvering erratically, it entered a runway without clearance. With its lights off and its transponder not transmitting, 844AA took off to the southwest, and headed out over the Atlantic Ocean.


The mystery still hasn't been solved. Their take-off was successful and the aircraft was never seen again.
February 6th, 2017 at 8:21:23 PM permalink
Fleastiff
Member since: Oct 27, 2012
Threads: 47
Posts: 3968
EVERYTHING there was riddled with corruption, bribery and double crosses.

Look at the various stakeholders... Parking fees, take off fees, fuel bill fees, conflicting claims, various Generals....
All it takes is a list of the steps that have to be taken... then determine when the plane is most vulnerable and hit it hard.

Even if he just had an SEL he could read a manual and attempt a takeoff. I don't think he was trying to reposess the aircraft, he probably was in fact doing a full power run up and systems check... which someone else decided was the best time to take the plane. Maintenance guys were undoubtedly disposed of long ago. Plane either evaded some General who wanted his bribe money or it did not. Either way the maintenance crew had served their function and were expendable. Engines may have been removed but more likely it was flown "as is" for awhile. Fried avionics in the African sun is normal. Fuel runs, freight runs, whatever paid.
February 7th, 2017 at 6:47:41 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 301
Posts: 9998
Quote: reno
The mystery still hasn't been solved. Their take-off was successful and the aircraft was never seen again.


Chances are it's somewhere at the bottom of the Atlantic. Less likely over some uninhabited piece of land.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
February 7th, 2017 at 8:53:07 AM permalink
Dalex64
Member since: Mar 8, 2014
Threads: 2
Posts: 1521
There are so many ways for them to crash an older plane like a 727, especially if they didn't have a qualified flight engineer.

Something as simple as not setting the cabin pressurization, and having them pass out from hypoxia.

They could have run the engines at take-off thrust for too long and melted them.

Maybe they didn't have enough fuel, or enough fuel in the right tanks.

They could have left the flaps extended past schedule and ripped them off of the wings.

They could have set flaps-40 on approach, if they made it that far, and fell out of the sky like a rock.
"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts." Daniel Patrick Moynihan
February 7th, 2017 at 12:32:31 PM permalink
Ayecarumba
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 79
Posts: 1232
Are three people actually required to fly a 727? I always thought the overstaffing was an FAA safety requirement. If you are not worried about communications and only concerned with occasionally balancing the load of fuel, it seems one person could do it alone.

I doubt someone who could pull off the caper would do so with no idea where he planned to put the plane down.
February 7th, 2017 at 12:56:17 PM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 301
Posts: 9998
Quote: Ayecarumba
Are three people actually required to fly a 727?


Yes.

No clue whether they can be upgraded with automation to replace the flight engineer.

Quote:
I always thought the overstaffing was an FAA safety requirement.


Not really. Despite a large degree of automation, the work load is best divided among two people. That's why when one pilot is incapacitated, the remaining pilot has to declare an emergency and land in the first available airport, even if the incapacitation isn't a medical emergency (say the other pilot got drunk during the flight).


Quote:
I doubt someone who could pull off the caper would do so with no idea where he planned to put the plane down.


There's another thing: was the thief rated to fly that plane?

Planes aren't like cars, where you can drive any model of any size more or less equally. I'm not sure what the issues are, but a pilot rated on a B737 can't just pick up a B777 and fly it safely. If you think this is bunk, I refer you to a crash in Mex City caused in large part by the pilots not being rated on the business jet they were flying, although much of the questionable maneuvers were made through the flight management system.

In a dire emergency, I suppose any pilot could take over any plane and give it a shot at landing safely.

I suppose any given aircraft company could standardize their fleet so they could do away with type ratings, but only at the cost of stifling innovation. Now and then two types may be so standardized, like the B 757/767, or the new CS-100/300. I also assume an A320 type rating works for all the family (ie A318-319-320-321), and the same goes for the 737 NG and will be so for the MAX. But I really don't know that.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
February 7th, 2017 at 2:40:16 PM permalink
Fleastiff
Member since: Oct 27, 2012
Threads: 47
Posts: 3968
Quote: Ayecarumba
Are three people actually required to fly a 727?
No.... you can skimp and hope you don't really need a flight engineer but if you are wrong its too late to go get one. You don't even need two pilots despite the massive workload of evading some irate General's vengence for leaving without paying a bribe.
I would never steal a plane and then head out at high altitude over a relatively empty ocean. You go low and slow despite gulping fuel and you get to a place where you can land, quickly get more fuel and continue your escape. 19,000 feet won't be hypoxia but would be hypoxemia and dulled mental reflexes. 12,000 feet would be better. Engines probably not able to feed bleed air into the cabin system anyway Most likely cabin not pressurized.Radio altimeter probably not available. Instruments probably fused silicone.
February 7th, 2017 at 3:29:07 PM permalink
Dalex64
Member since: Mar 8, 2014
Threads: 2
Posts: 1521
Depends on the plane. I am not sure about the 727, but the dc8 had some controls that were only on the FE station, and not on the pilots consoles.

For SAFE operation they were required, since there are definitely gauges and monitors on that panel which the pilots do not have.

One person could set everything up and take off, but like Fleastiff implied, if anything went wrong you would be screwed.
"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts." Daniel Patrick Moynihan
February 7th, 2017 at 4:35:48 PM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 301
Posts: 9998
I think the 727 ceased production by 1985 or so. By the early 2000s, a 727 might have been worth more in parts than whole.

I last flew one in 1997...
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
February 8th, 2017 at 1:19:10 AM permalink
Fleastiff
Member since: Oct 27, 2012
Threads: 47
Posts: 3968
As to lack of a Flight Engineer, it should be remembered that there are two separate scenarios.

One is that the crew refurbishing the engines and doing a full power run up took the plane and fully intended to take the plane at that time all along.

The other scenario is that 'someone' learning of the scheduled full power run up arranged to conceal themselves nearby and simply put a gun to the pilot's head. If the pilot said "No Flight Engineer, No Takeoff" the reply might be "If No Takeoff, No Brains In Head". The gunman (gunmen) may not have the technical knowledge required for a safe flight, they just have to have the desire to steal something they know to be valuable and vulnerable.