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Spanish Officials Searching for Owner of Passenger Jet Abandoned at Airport for Nearly 10 Years

Jan. 27, 2019
5 min read
Screenshot 2019-01-27 13.36.42
Spanish Officials Searching for Owner of Passenger Jet Abandoned at Airport for Nearly 10 Years
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Spanish officials are looking for the owner of a 29-year-old McDonnell Douglass MD-87, according to a public notice submitted to the Boletin Oficial del Estado (Gazette of Spain). The notice, which is requesting the help of the public to locate the abandoned aircraft's owner, was submitted by the airport director at Spain's largest airport. However, locating an owner is extremely unlikely, as reports indicate that the passenger jet has been sitting at Madrid-Barajas Airport for almost a decade.

The abandoned aircraft has received the nickname "Ghost Plane" from airport employees familiar with the aircraft. Originally assembled in Long Beach, CA (LGB), at what was once McDonnell-Douglas's main narrow-body assembly plant, the ghost plane has been identified as an MD-87. The MD-87 is a variant of the massively successful MD-80 series. This particular MD-87, bearing the registration EC-KRV, has called Madrid-Barajas International Airport home for the past decade. EC-KRV first delivered to Iberia, Spain's flag-carrier, in 1990. For the better part of the aircraft's history, the MD-87 operated routinely and uneventfully — that is until Iberia sold off the aircraft in 2008.

EC-KRV seen at Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) (Image by YouTube user Bokeroncito1983)
EC-KRV as seen at Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) (Image by YouTube user Bokeroncito1983)

In 2008, Iberia was in the process of retiring older MD-80 series aircraft. EC-KRV had been flying for the airline for just 18 years, however, when it was retired from service with Iberia. It was at this time in the aircraft's history that ownership bounced around due to various financial issues at multiple small Spanish airlines.

EC-KRV was first purchased by Pronair, a very short-lived Spanish carrier flying for just two years before the airline collapsed. The MD-87 then sat in storage for roughly two years until Saicus Air, a Spanish cargo carrier, purchased the aircraft with the intentions of launching passenger service. Saicus Air, launched in 2008, operated first as a cargo airline and in 2010, after announcing that the airline would operate Bissau Airport in Guinea Bissau, began planning passenger flights.

Saicus Air was looking to take delivery of two used MD-87s, one of which was EC-KRV. The MD-87s would be used on flights between Bissau Airport and Las Palamas (LPA) and Madrid (MAD). EC-KRV was successfully delivered to Saicus Air in 2010. It is unclear if the MD-87 ever took flight under Saicus Air ownership. Shortly after announcing passenger service with its fleet of MD-87s, Saicus Air collapsed. According to The Independent, the ghost plane EC-KRV has been sitting at Madrid-Barajas Airport since 2010.

Small and mismanaged airlines collapsing is nothing new and happened frequently in the late 2000s in the wake of the global financial crisis. However, when airlines collapse, the assets are usually sold off to other airlines or to scrapyards for parts. In fact, airlines are legally required to liquidate assets in the case of total financial collapse to pay off debts and liabilities. Rarely does an aircraft belonging to a defunct airline simply stay put.

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However, this appears to be the case with EC-KRV. The only logical explanation as to why a fully-functional mid-range McDonnell-Douglas MD-87 passengers jet has sat abandoned at Madrid's main international airport is that, somehow, EC-KRV was not sold or scrapped when its former owner collapsed. It's possible that EC-KRV slipped through the cracks and became ownerless. Furthermore, it's possible that Sacius Air still owns the aircraft.

Now, almost ten years since EC-KRV showed up at Madrid-Barajas Airport, the airport's director, Elena Mayoral, has acknowledged that the MD-87 is abandoned. This acknowledgment came in the form of the public notice submitted to the Boletin Oficial del Estado. Per Spanish law, the notice must run in the Boletin Oficial for the next three months. After three months is up, the owner has an additional 365 days to claim the aircraft. After this 365-day period is up, the MD-87 will become the property of the state and will likely be sold at auction or scrapped for parts.

Plenty of videos and images of the ghost plane are available online. Aviation enthusiasts and geeks familiar with the aircraft appear to have been well aware of the MD-87's fate. The airport director's public notice and a series of stories like the one from CNN have only now brought the abandoned passenger jet to the forefront of aviation news.

If this just so happens to be your McDonnell-Douglas MD-87 or you know someone who might have information regarding the identity of the aircraft, check out the public notice available on the official Boletin Oficial del Estado website for information on how to contact officials.

H/T: CNN Travel