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Wed, Feb 16, 2005

Where IS That 727-100?

Coup Plane's Fate Still Undecided

Authorities in Zimbabwe say the Boeing 727-100 was carrying mercenaries bent on staging a coup in Equatorial Guinea. They stopped for fuel at Harare International Airport -- where they were discovered and taken into custody.

But what about the plane?

The $3 million aircraft was seized by Zimbabwean officials and, in September, ordered forfeit. The question now is, what to do with it.

"Our ministry never handled that issue. It was handled by the justice and security ministries. We don’t know anything about that airplane apart from that it was forfeited to the state last year," said Zimbabwe's Transport and Communications secretary, Karikoga Kaseke, quoted by the Sunday Mirror.

When the country's justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, was asked what's being done with the aircraft, he wasn't exactly clear.

"The issue of that plane is an administrative matter," he told the Mirror. "I think the only important thing that you have to note is that the court ordered that the plane was forfeited to the state. Whether it will be used or where it will be used is neither here nor there, and if it becomes important for the public to know, then we let them know. At the present moment there is no need for the public to know what has happened to that plane.

Might the aircraft be pressed into service as part of Air Zimbabwe's fleet? Probably not. Even though Air Zimbabwe is, like many legacy carriers, struggling at the moment, executives point out the 727-100 is 41 years old. News reports also indicate the aircraft has strained under "heavy usage," making it all the more undesirable for the country's national air carrier.

The aircraft was owned by Dodson Aviation, based in Ratoul, KS, before it was seized in Zimbabwe last March. Built in 1964 and sold to the Air Force, the 727-100 saw service with the Air National Guard and the General Services Administration. Boeing sold the aircraft to Dodson in 1985. Several Dodson Aviation aircraft are currently flown under South African registry.

FMI: www.dodson.com, www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/zi.html

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