The plane (serial number 20985) was manufactured in 1975 and formerly owned by American Airlines. Its last owner was reported to be Miami-based company Aerospace Sales & Leasing.

While on lease to TAAG Angola Airlines it had been grounded and sat idle at Luanda for 14 months, accruing more than $4 million in backdated airport fees.

The FBI described it as "...unpainted silver in color with a stripe of blue, white, and blue. The plane was formerly in the air fleet of a major airline, but all of the passenger seats have been removed. It is outfitted to carry diesel fuel.

Many theories exist about what happened to the plane. Benita Padilla-Kirkland, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper that her family suspects that he was flying the aircraft and fear that he subsequently crashed somewhere in Africa or is being held against his will.

In July 2003 a possible sighting of the missing plane was reported in Conakry, Guinea, but this has been conclusively dismissed by the US Department of State. Some reports suggest there was only one person on board the aircraft at the time; some suggest there may have been more than one.