The Libyan ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi owned a luxuriously furnished Airbus A340. Today the jet is in Perpignan - with a high unpaid bill.
The regional airport Perpignan-Rivesaltes in the south of France in the has had a prominent guest for years: the Airbus A340-200, which the late Libyan ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi used as his Air Force One. But how did the plane get there? And why did it never leave?
In 2011, rebels in the Libyan civil war brought the plane under their control and posed in the luxurious cabin for photos, for example next to the large bed with a mirror as a headboard. After Gaddafi was shot and a transitional government came to power, it sent the luxury jet to Perpignan in 2012. It was said to be there at least for repair and maintenance, but there was also talk of rebuilding it into a normal jet.
Flying with bullet holes
The problem: The plane was damaged; among other things by bullet holes. So, according to French media, the A340 was prepared for the trip with the help of Air France, among others, and finally transferred. Due to the damage, the pilots only flew the jet at about one third of the usual cruising altitude and left the landing gear extended during the flight.
Arriving in Perpignan, the maintenance company EAS repaired and painted the aircraft as an Air France partner. To date, however, no one has paid the million-dollar bill for this. As early as 2015, a Kuwaiti corporation attempted to seize the plane in order to recover debts accumulated by the Gaddafi regime. But a French court refused.
Prominent previous owners
Today the aircraft with the registration 5A-ONE is almost 23 years old. Airbus delivered the A340-200 in October 1996 originally to the brother of the Sultan of Brunei. However, as the brother had taken the wrong pots of money, the ruler took the plane from his relative and sold it to Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal from Saudi Arabia. The latter in turn sold the plane profitably to Muammar al-Gaddafi.
The Libyan ruler had the Airbus painted from the outside in the usual colours of the state Afriqiyah Airways, but from the inside as his private jet. In 2009 he sent the plane to Glasgow to bring the terminally ill Libyan secret service agent and Lockerbie assassin Abdelbaset Al Megrahi home.
What about the A340?
Today, the aircraft is still standing in Perpignan on the grounds of EAS successor Sabena Technics, as confirmed by the airport. Neither the maintenance company Sabena nor Air France have responded to requests from aeroTELEGRAPH for the aircraft.