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ARLINGTON, Va. -- In what many airline analysts see as a last ditch effort to avoid insolvency, AstroSphere Airways has placed an ad on eBay to auction off an Airbus 320. But in a statement issued by the company yesterday, it is clear that this is not just any Airbus. This airplane has a well defined image of Jesus on the front of the fuselage just below the pilots' windscreen.
According to documents accompanying the eBay offering, the aircraft has been in service with AstroSphere Airways for about one year. Prior to that, it had been on lease to Two Wings and a Prayer Tours based in Del Rio, Texas.
Two Wings and a Prayer Tours used the airplane exclusively in charter service to fly the faithful on religious pilgrimages from locations around North America to Guadalajara, Mexico. The airplane was used on four roundtrips per week for nearly two years before it was returned to the lessor, Moonscape Aviation of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Workers at AstroSphere first noticed the image last month when the airplane was prepared for service for flights between Fort Lauderdale to Santo Domingo. At first the likeness was attributed to a build up of dirt. However, after a thorough scrubbing, the image was still apparent. A professional cleaning company was consulted, and it was concluded that the image was not dirt but a stain on the aircraft body. Following that discovery, no one has been willing to attempt to remove it.
Bidding on eBay has been brisk. At press time, the high bid was $1,330,665 by a bidder with the screen name “j_swaggart."
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