I'm reading through TheStar's "Malaysia Airports seeks owner of three Boeing 747s abandoned at KLIA" article and I can't stop wondering, why I don't understand it or how should I understand it?

How it is possible in 21th century, that knowing large passenger aircraft's (a) type, (b) current location and (c) registration it is still impossible to find actual aircraft's owner in a matter of minutes?

Don't we have aircraft's databases, to obtain this information? Or to use it to track any passenger aircraft latest flights? Is it possible, that Kuala Lumpur International Airport does not have any records or tracks of what (owned by whom) and when landed on their grounds?

I know that this isn't possible, but for a newbie like me this article sound like a joke rather than a current reality in aviation industry today.

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    $\begingroup$ Wish I had the kind of money it takes to casually misplace a billion dollars worth of planes... $\endgroup$
    – corsiKa
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 8:00
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    $\begingroup$ With corporate transactions, and possibly a bankruptcy or two, not knowing (or disagreeing on) who owns what exactly can happen very quickly. $\endgroup$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 9:25
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    $\begingroup$ If the operators of the bankrupt company are dishonest then they may lie to the bankruptcy court about it's assets either with the intent of stealing them later or just because they want to screw the creditors. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 11:48
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    $\begingroup$ @trejder But you have to pay the parking fee first. KLIA charges 0.5RM for every 10sqm2 outdoor parking every 12hrs. Parking cost 260 thousand USD for each year. $\endgroup$
    – Him
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ It could be that the current owner doesn't want to be found, whether because he/it owes money that he doesn't want to pay, is attempting to avoid taxes, or any number of other nefarious reasons. Pure speculation, of course, but more likely than Delta (or Air Atlanta Icelandic) pilot getting drunk at the airport bar, walking to the hotel and forgetting where he parked... :) $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 17:32

3 Answers 3


Every country handles aircraft registration differently (but generally similar). Im sure Boeing could tell you who they originally delivered the airframe to but if it was sold from there it could legally go anywhere and would only be subject to local registration legislation.

Here in the US you can look up aircraft owners by N number but not all countries may keep a record like that and as far as I know there is no global aircraft registry.

it is still impossible to find actual aircraft's owner in a matter of minutes

Knowing who the owner is and finding the owner are two very different things.

According to this article

Several aviation databases list the Boeings -- identified by their call signs TF-ARN, TF-ARH, TF-ARM -- as belonging to leasing firm Air Atlanta Icelandic, but that company says it sold them in 2008.

Since then, the aircraft appear to have changed hands several times.

Malaysia Airports says it's entitled to sell the Boeings under the country's civil aviation regulations if no owner comes forward.

So it seems they do know who owned them at some point (most likely the last people to put readable registration numbers on them).

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for a good answer. I still can imagine, though, that KLIA doesn't have any record on when these planes landed for the last time and what was plane's operator during that last flight. $\endgroup$
    – trejder
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ They may know who landed them and when but if the planes were parked and sold (multiple times at that) the responsibility lies with the current owner and the original seller may be of little help aside from a courteous finger point to the next link in the chain. $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean, that they were parked like months or years ago and sold during parking? Who then paid for parking fees? Why did KLIA started the case right now and didn't put any interest during those months or years, these planes were parked on their grounds. This certainly is a mystery case for newbie like me. $\endgroup$
    – trejder
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ @trejder Well, apparently, nobody was paying for the parking fees, which is why the airport is trying to sell the planes to recover the fees it's owed. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 21:40
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    $\begingroup$ @trejder You brought up the parking fees and asked who is paying them, so it's a bit rich of you to ding me for drifting off-topic when I'm responding directly to you. Clearly, if they knew who paid the parking fees, that would give them information about who owned the planes. The fact that they don't know who owns the planes strongly implies that the parking fees aren't being paid. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 9:59

There's certainly some missing details in that story. Two minutes with Google shows that (a) the prefix "TF" refers to Iceland, and (b) those three aircraft were most recently registered to Air Atlanta Icelandic, some sort of charter/cargo operator.

What's missing from that news story is that surely the Malaysian authorities have already done the above, and have been unable to contact the registered owner for whatever reason.

Interesting is that the Air Atlanta Icelandic fleet as listed by ch-aviation does not include those three registration numbers. So maybe they've been sold to someone else.


The article in the Guardian said that they think they know who the owner is on paper, but that company isn't contactable. Taking out advertisements in major newspapers (within the same jurisdiction, then covered as news by the world's press) is likely to be a step towards giving due notice before reposessions proceedings can start, to give the real owner time to respond.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for first legal steps toward being able to lien against them or some sort of similar asset takeover. I wouldn't be surprised if these aircraft were left in this particular location because of the specific rules in the jurisdiction. $\endgroup$
    – blaughw
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 17:17

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