Malaysia finds two ‘untraceable’ Boeing planes, but it’s not what you think

Would the owner of three 747 jumbo jets please report to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, otherwise the vehicles will be towed, and auctioned off

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 December, 2015, 11:31am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 December, 2015, 8:23am

It’s not unusual to leave something behind at an airport, but of all the things turning up at the lost and found counter, three Boeing jumbo jets has to be the strangest.

While a multi-national search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 continues, the Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd. placed an advertisement Monday in the nation’s best-selling English daily asking for the “untraceable” owner of three Boeing Co. 747-200F planes to come and collect them. The planes are parked at three separate bays at KLIA in Sepang, outside the Malaysian capital, the Star newspaper ad showed.

“If you fail to collect the aircraft within 14 days of the date of this notice, we reserve the right to sell or otherwise dispose of the aircraft pursuant to the Civil Aviation Regulations 1996 and use the money raised to set off any expenses and debt due to us under the said regulations,” the notice read.

Out of production since 1991, even the youngest models from the -200F line would fetch only pennies on the dollar. A freighter from that year has a market value of about $13.1 million — and a 1978 version would be worth only about 1/10th that sum, according to prices compiled by aviation consultant Avitas.

That’s a reflection of the planes’ age as well as dwindling demand for four-engine jets and a slumping air-cargo market. A factory-fresh 747-8 freighter retails for $379.1 million before the discounts that are customary in the aerospace industry.

The three jumbos have been sitting on the KLIA tarmac for more than a year, said Zainol Mohd. Isa, the contact person listed in the ad. He declined to say how much in parking fees and other charges were owed to the air terminal.

“We have been in communication with the so-called owner, but they have not been responding to take away the aircraft. That’s why we go through this process to legalize whatever actions we want to take,” Zainol said by phone Tuesday. “We want to clear the area, we want to utilize our parking bay.”

Boeing didn’t reply to e-mails seeking comment. Giving notice by ads is a “common and reasonable step” in the debt- recovery process, Malaysia Airports said in a statement on its website Tuesday.

That’s especially true when the plane owner is a foreign company that’s no longer operating and “exhaustive steps undertaken to find a contact person have not been successful,” Malaysia Airports said. “This step is also a common process undertaken by airport operators all over the world when faced with such a situation.”

At least one of the jets was operated by the cargo unit of Malaysia Airlines, which leased the plane from Air Atlanta Icelandic, a Kopavogur, Iceland-based lessor providing planes along with crew, maintenance and insurance services, according to Planespotters.net. Air Atlanta Icelandic didn’t reply to an e-mail seeking comment.

Some of these aircraft from Air Atlanta Icelandic were on wet lease to MASkargo, but the contract expired in April 2010, MASkargo said in an e-mail Tuesday.

“We have no further involvement with those aircraft since then,” MASkargo said.