‘Ghost’ plane sold to mystery customer before suspicious flight to Bulgaria
Further details have been revealed about a ‘ghost’ plane that entered the airspaces of Hungary, Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria on June 8, 2022, without permission and with its transponder and radio switched off.
As reported by Lithuanian news broadcaster LRT on June 10, 2022, the unidentified plane appeared to be a Piper PA-23–250-Aztec twin-engined light aircraft, which was previously registered as LY-LOO.
The small aircraft had belonged to the director of Nida Airfield, Bronius Zaromskis, who claims to have sold it to an unidentified Russian-speaking customer during the last week in Panevezys, northern Lithuania.
The aircraft was misidentified as a Beechcraft in earlier reports published by Romanian and Hungarian media.
Zaromskis told local media that the three men who arrived to inspect the plane before purchase were not Lithuania nationals.
“I cannot guess which country they were from. They might be Ukrainians, maybe Romanians or Bulgarians. I was speaking to one of them in the Russian language. But I don’t know the names of any of these men, I was not interested,” the plane’s former owner was cited as saying by LRT.
He added: “I’ve been trying to sell that plane for years, I had nowhere to store it, so I’m glad somebody bought it. I don't remember the name of the company which bought it.”
Speaking to Lithuanian media, Oro Navigacija, a local state-owned company that provides air traffic, communication, navigation, and surveillance services in the region, said it does not have any data related to the flight, although it reportedly took-off from Lithuania on June 8, 2022.
However, it is thought that the plane did not take-off from any of the three main civil Lithuanian airports - Vilnius (VNO), Kaunas (KUN), or Palanga (PLQ). Instead, it could have left the country via any one of the country's minor airfields.
According to Hungarian press, the aircraft entered Hungarian airspace from Slovakia and landed at Hajdúszoboszló Airport without permission. The pilot then threatened an airport worker who called the police. When the police arrived and approached the plane, the pilot "gave it full throttle and took off” violating all flight rules, according to a report by Rtl.hu.
The case of the suspicious flight
AeroTime had previously reported that an unknown plane, then misidentified as a Beechcraft, and thought to have taken off in the region of Debrecen, Hungary at approximately 16:30 CET (2:30 pm GMT) with two people on board, was intercepted by a pair of Hungarian Air Force Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets.
According to the Romanian Ministry of National Defense, the plane had no confirmed flight plan and did not respond to any attempts to establish radio communication, and ignored all visual signals. However, it “did not show hostile or dangerous behavior”.
Bulgarian media reported that at around 17.49 CET the plane entered Romanian airspace in the vicinity of Oradea. As per a cross-border agreement between Romania and Hungary, the Hungarian jets continued to accompany the mystery plane. Several minutes later, it was intercepted by two patrolling US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from 86th Feteşti Air Base.
At around 18:36 CET, the surveillance was taken over by two Romanian Air Force F-16s. While being followed, the aircraft entered Serbian airspace for two minutes in an area between Drobeta-Turnu Severin and Korbovo.
Then, at 19:09 CET, the aircraft entered Bulgarian airspace, but no Bulgarian Air Force fighter jets were scrambled.
“At no time the plane was a threat to the civilian or military infrastructure of Bulgaria. It was flying at a low altitude, difficult to catch by fighters, but we monitored it at all times. We located where it landed and are working to establish the circumstances,” Bulgarian Minister of Defense Dragomir Zakov told Bulgarian media on June 9, 2022.
The Prosecutor's Office of Bulgaria has opened an investigation to locate the pilot of the plane, who abandoned the aircraft immediately after landing on an unused runway at Buhovți Airport, a small airport located near Targovishte city in Bulgaria. The plane was reportedly found covered with a tarpaulin with no signs of any crew or passengers.
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