Shortly before sunset on May 25, 2003, air traffic control crews at the Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport in Angola noticed something quite peculiar. A Boeing 727-223, tail number N844AA, was taxiing erratically onto one of the runways. No attempts at contact with the tower were being made, and the aircraft departed southwest over the Atlantic Ocean with all lights off. The plane in question was unpainted silver, with red, white and blue stripes, and had recently been filled with 14,000 gallons of fuel, enough to travel up to 1,500 miles.
At the time of its disappearance, 844AA was being leased to a man named Keith Irwin. Irwin procured the aircraft in February of 2002 from a Florida-based aerospace company, owned by Maury Joseph, for use in delivering diesel fuel to diamond mines in Angola. But Irwin only used the plane for a brief time and quickly defaulted on his payments. Joseph eventually hired a certified aircraft mechanic, flight engineer and private pilot named Ben Charles Padilla to return the 727, now in disrepair, to a flight-safe condition so it could be repossessed. He scheduled an Air Gemini crew to fly it out on May 26, 2003, but when they arrived, they discovered the aircraft was already gone.
Padilla and John Mikel Mutantu, a mechanic from the Republic of the Congo, were last seen boarding the plane. Since the incident took place on the heels of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. intelligence community went on high alert, searching for the aircraft across multiple countries, without result. It would seem 844AA and its crew had disappeared.