Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Interpol and a Mystery Jet

Not a song-title title, and not really a jet - an Antonov-26 instead. Via, we learn that a plane hitherto thought to have been stolen has been seized in Beni, Province Orientale, DRC on the instructions of Interpol. Le Phare of Kinshasa reports that the aircraft was operated by an ex-Soviet crew led by a Russian pilot who was himself wanted by the International Police (it's not clear whether Interpol is meant or the UN Mission) - but no names. Apparently Interpol agents have been checking aircraft at strips across the eastern DRC recently, which has led to some local airlines signing insurance policies! Still, anything that reduces the penalty for what Soj used to call "Flying whilst Black" is welcome.

Le Potentiel has more detail, quoting the registration as 9Q-COR and the owner as "Belglobe Airlines" and stating that the serial number was that of an aircraft missing from the Ukraine for the past 14 years. It goes without saying that Belglobe isn't online, or possibly it doesn't exist. Neither is the registration listed anywhere.

But we have the information, via a Russian discussion forum. They identify the registration 9Q-COR as the aircraft with the manufacturer's serial number 7305809, last heard of under the registration EW-46359, but associated with something called Aviatrade Congo. The last data on this plane is from 1997 in Belarus, but lists it as "derelict" at Ishiro/Matari airfield in the DRC (and an Antonov-24 to boot).

Aviatrade Congo may have used the plane, but never acknowledged it. It does lay claim to another An-26, 9Q-CVR serial no. 7305802 - note that these are very close indeed to the other aircraft's details. We do know, however, that this plane (or one bearing the titles) exists - here's a photo taken at Pointe-Noire on the 30th of October, 2005. Fascinatingly, Aviatrade Congo is said to be the property of the Gabonese President's daughter, or else a Congolese general who is sought by the French courts.

(Hat-tip to Arnaud Labrousse, btw.)

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