Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Riddle me this

Well, how's that Operation Firedump thing going? Crap, would be a fair assessment. All it seems to have achieved is getting various bits of the Romanian government to read this blog, starting with the Foreign Ministry, moving on to the Civil Aeronautical Authority, and landing up with the External Information Service - that is, the equivalent of MI6 (they're at on IP address No sign of a seizure of 3C-QRF, though.

God knows how difficult it will be to get anywhere with the UAE. After all, UN-sanctioned Irbis Air Co.'s UN-75003 was photographed at Sharjah on the
4th of January. We know they are there.

In the meantime, though, why not crack into another bit of mystery jet weirdness? We've mentioned before (may well have been a world exclusive) that Iraqi Airways' planes are all registered in Sierra Leone, that a tribal sheikh, Hussain al-Khawam, is the new boss, and that the aircraft originate with a Jordanian entity (Teebah Airlines) with close connections to mercenaries well-known from West Africa and also with Kam Air and Phoenix Aviation/AVE. More recently, it turned out that Mr. Al-Khawam was responsible for arranging kickbacks to Australian Wheat Board officials around their oil-for-food contracts. Nice.

Here is a riddle. This photo shows 9L-LEG, an Iraqi AW Boeing 737 Classic, serial number 22885/966, in Baghdad on the 15th of September 2004, wearing the smart green livery of both new and old Iraq's airline.

But..sadly, no! Take a look at this one, taken at Southend Airport 17 days later and spot the deliberate mistake. First of all, although it's still registered 9L-LEG, it's changed colour and moved to something called "Destiny Air". Well, that can be achieved with a spraygun and a dose of elbow grease. Destiny Air sounds like it could claim the title of The World's Most Ominous Airline for its advertising, too. Second, it's got no windows. This is a rather bigger job, but not outside the bounds of the possible. Thirdly, damningly, it's changed into a Boeing 727!

Now that seems like carelessness. Letting one of your aeroplanes metamorphose is frankly unprofessional. Here's another photo taken at the same time and place: link. Clear enough, no?

But by February last year, it turns out, 9L-LEG had just been going through a phase. Here it is, at Amman (Queen Alia) International on the 7th of February, back in its B737 civvies. And again, at Amman, on the 1st October: here.

So. Either we have a transgender aircraft on our hands, or there's a 727 missing. Fortunately, through the magic of teh interwebs, we have the answer. Destiny Air was created in Sierra Leone in 2004. It has only ever used one plane - a Boeing 727 freighter (like the one in the photo) with the registration 9L-LFD and the serial number 21245. -LFD, of course, is just a splash of white paint and a length of gaffer tape away from -LEG. Photographic evidence puts 21245 at Southend throughout the summer of 2004 undergoing major maintenance, and thisphoto taken by the same man as the -LEC ones places it in Southend, in its right registration, on the 12th of February 2005 when it left Southend for Chateauroux (of all places).

During that summer the plane was sold by Air Contractors Ireland to Destiny Air via a broker called Weir Equipment Finance. It had previously been working under a wet lease from ACI for the well-known parcel freight firm TNT. Aerotransport.org currently lists it as "stored".

So, we know the what and quite a lot of the how. Why? It's all extremely strange.

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