The insurgent forces had simply taken management of the nation’s airport and gained a significant prize.
Except Gaddafi himself is captured – the toppled Libyan chief was killed by insurgent forces weeks later – they’ve taken management of one of many authority’s most spectacular symbols.
Bullets and shrapnel penetrated the fuselage of the four-engine Airbus A340-200, however the inside was nonetheless intact.
Quickly the overseas journalists have been invited on board to see it for themselves.
One after the other, the inside rooms of the Libyan presidential aircraft – occupied by insurgent Kalashnikov militiamen – revealed their secrets and techniques: a scorching tub, personal cinema, master suite surrounded by mirrors, and extra.
Though from the surface it seems like simply one other Libyan Airways aircraft, Afriqiyah Airways, this luxuriously outfitted aircraft was Gaddafi’s Flying Palace.
Recycle, recycle, repurpose?
The destiny of this luxury presidential aircraft shortly posed a dilemma for the brand new Libyan authorities: What to do with an plane intently linked to the excesses of its late dictator?
One choice was to strip it of the VIP cabin and convert it into a daily passenger aircraft.
This was not the case with Gaddafi’s aircraft, however nonetheless, one factor was clear: No matter finish use was given, the aircraft wanted an intensive and complete overhaul.
That’s the reason, in 2012, the previous Air Drive One, registered 5A-ONE, was transferred to services of EAS Industries (presently Sabena Technics), an plane upkeep and restore firm and sub-contractor for Air France primarily based in Perpignan, within the south of France.
In contrast to different plane that have been caught in a shootout in 2011 at Tripoli airport and needed to be written off, Gaddafi’s A340 remained airworthy. Regardless of this, the harm inflicted throughout the airport battle was critical sufficient that the 900-mile flight to France needed to happen at one-third of the conventional crusing altitude and the touchdown gear couldn’t be towed in any respect.
A Libyan insurgent relaxes on board a aircraft in Tripoli in August 2011.
Patrick Paz / AFP by way of Getty Photographs
Litigations and controversies
As soon as the aircraft arrived in France, it was repaired and repainted.
The outdated African paint “9999” that celebrated the announcement of the choice to determine the African Union on September 9, 1999, quickly disappeared, and changed it with a brand new one bearing the Libyan flag.
By 2013, the aircraft was able to fly once more, however as an alternative of getting into business service, the Libyan authorities stored it for its personal use.
Quick-lived tour, as a result of with the deterioration of the safety state of affairs in Libya, by March 2014, 5A-ONE had returned to Perpignan.
This time, regardless of its arrival on French soil, it marked the start of a world judicial complicated that stored Gaddafi’s Airbus plane on the bottom to at the present time.
Lawsuits and controversy appear to observe this airframe wherever he goes.
It was first delivered, in 1996, to Prince Jefri Bolkiah, the playful brother of the Sultan of Brunei. The prince is claimed to have spent $ 250 million on allocating it earlier than promoting it lower than 4 years later, at a time when he was concerned in a authorized dispute along with his household over using state funds.
Quickly after, nevertheless, the A340 was again in the marketplace and it was at this level that Gaddafi entered the image. The Libyan chief lastly acquired it in 2006 for $ 120 million.
It was the primary of a number of high-profile authorized instances linked to this plane.
In August 2011, a Libyan insurgent sits within the cockpit of an A340 that has already amassed a colourful historical past.
Patrick Paz / AFP by way of Getty Photographs
Caught within the crossfire
In the identical yr that Gaddafi purchased his Airbus, the Libyan authorities signed a take care of the Kharafi Group, a Kuwait-based group, to develop a seaside resort in Tajoura, close to Tripoli. It wasn’t lengthy earlier than this deal faltered, and in 2010, the Libyan aspect scrapped it.
This was solely the primary chapter in a posh authorized dispute happening in a number of jurisdictions that continues as we speak. Gaddafi’s Air Drive One was, as soon as once more, beneath fireplace – solely this time it was of the authorized variety, not the literal one.
The Kharafi Group filed a lawsuit in opposition to the Libyan state in France as nicely, so when the A340 landed in Perpignan, they sought to confiscate it.
The plaintiffs appealed, and as their case was slowly making their approach by means of the French authorized system, the previous Air Drive One had different kinds of obligations.
By 2016, upkeep, restore and renewal charges had risen to almost 3 million euros, making Air France a celebration to the judicial course of as nicely, additional complicating the case. This quantity is prone to have risen since then, and this additionally happens in a context through which the market worth of four-engine plane that eat giant portions of fuel has declined, such because the 25-year-old Libyan A340.
Nevertheless, the plane was nonetheless being taken care of.
After photographer and Airbus fanatic, Clement Alwing, found the aircraft on an obvious take a look at flight on Could 3, CNN contacted airport communications director Alexander Magniel. He confirmed that the aircraft is present process upkeep operations by Sabina Strategies.
In late 2020, native observers additionally famous the beginning up of their engines, a daily process for long-range saved plane which might be nonetheless airworthy.
CNN reached out to Sabena Technics for remark.
At this level, it’s troublesome to know what the long run holds for what has turn out to be generally known as “Gaddafi’s aircraft”.
Coincidentally, it’s not the one Air Drive One to turn out to be a longtime resident of Perpignan. Two different African flagship plane, each Boeing 727s, for the Benin and Mauritania governments respectively, are in a long-term warehouse on the French Catalonia airport.
And extra lately, in January 2021, one other Presidential Airbus A340 plane visited the identical services for upkeep. This, even though French President Emmanuel Macron, will not be anticipated to stay lengthy among the many vineyards of Roussillon.