Source: The Economist BY B.R.
To the joy of newsites everywhere keen for something quirky to report over the Christmas period (mea culpa), last week Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) admitted that it could not trace the owners of three jumbo jets that had been parked on its tarmac for over a year. In a newspaper advert, the operators of the airport appealed for the owners of the “untraceable” 747s to come forward, otherwise it would sell them and use the proceeds to pay for the accrued parking charges and the like.
The mystery may have been solved. Swift Air Cargo, a Malaysian carrier, has claimed ownership of the aircraft. It says that the planes originally belonged to Flugvik, an Icelandic plane-leasing firm. They were leased to AirAtlanta Icelandic, which stopped flying them in 2010. At some point they were then de-registered, passed through various hands, including a Chinese carrier called Shaanxi Sunshine Cargo, and were eventually bought by Swift five years later. In a statement Swift said:
[Two of the aircraft] went from Iceland, through China to a Hong Kong entity and then to SWIFT, while [the third] went from Iceland, through Turkey to a Hong Kong entity and never was part of Shaanxi Sunshine Cargo.
The assumption MASSB (MAHB) [the airport operator] made was that the company paying the parking fees on the aircraft was the aircraft owner. This is not necessarily the case. Quite often, an airline will have various companies handle different aspects of the airline such as parking, aircraft handling, consumables, food and beverage, minor aircraft maintenance and security. Thus, just because Shaanxi Sunshine Cargo was paying the parking fee of the (3) Boeings does not determine ownership of the said aircraft as is evidenced when Shaanxi Sunshine Cargo was paying the parking fee for [the third plane] although it had never been the owner.
In what sounds like a bureaucratic circle of hell, Blue Peterson, Swift’s boss, told the BBC that KLIA has refused it access to the planes until it could produce registration documents. Yet it has been unable to log the jumbos because to do so “they must first undergo maintenance checks. And I can’t even go on the property to look at my own planes”. Resolving that catch-22, to the continued delight of news editors, does not sound easy.