Some reports suggest there was only one person on board the aircraft at the time; other reports suggest there may have been more than one. When the aircraft started taxiing down the runway, the control tower tried to make contact, but there was no response, and the tracking transponder was turned off.
Ben Charles Padilla, an aircraft mechanic, flight engineer, and private pilot, was aboard N844AA when it was stolen, and is believed by U.S. authorities to have been at the controls. He has not been seen or heard from since.
Padilla’s sister, Benita Padilla-Kirkland, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper that her family suspects Padilla was flying the aircraft and fear that he subsequently crashed somewhere on the African continent or is being held against his will.