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The plane that government seized

Dumisani Muleya

THE plane impounded by government on Sunday carrying suspected mercenaries on their way to Equatorial Guinea to stage a coup has been in service under different owners since 1964, information

at hand indicates. The aircraft, whose registration number in the United States was N4610, made its first flight on October 15, 1964. The ex-commercial 727-100 was formerly N4610 of National Airlines in the United States. Records show that it was previously owned by NAL (National Airlines)/PAA (Pan American Airlines). PAA bought NAL.

It also operated as ANG (Air National Guard) 4610 (c/n 18811). Its previous engine number is given as PWJT8D-7B, while the past registration number is supposed to be 83-4610. ANG is a vital part of the US Air Force. Referring to ANG on February 14, 2001, US President George W Bush said:

“As threats to America change… the National Guard and reservists will be more involved in homeland security, confronting acts of terror (that) our enemies may try to create.”

The ANG was formed on September 18 1947, the same day the US Air Force became a separate service. It was a product of postwar planning during World War II.

There are over 140 Air Guard units throughout the US and its territories. Its units include para-rescue missions, modular airborne firefighting support combat communications and air traffic control.

The plane was then sold by US Air Force on January 11, 2002 to Dodson International Parts, and then to Dodson Aviation on January 14, 2002. Dodson International Parts Inc, which belongs to the same group as Dodson Aviation, has a subsidiary, Dodson International Parts SA (Pty) Ltd, which is based at Wonderboom Airport in Pretoria, South Africa, from where the seized plane took off on its way to Zimbabwe.

Dodson said it sold the plane last week to a Logo Ltd of South Africa. The plane is now detained at Manyame Airbase after its seizure on Sunday.

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