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***This was one of the most popular stories of 2021 at The Iowa Standard. During this time of year, when things slow down, we like revisiting some of the most popular stories from the year.***

If it seems like nobody knows much about World Atlantic Flight WL317, it’s because nobody is taking responsibility. Initially, some said the flight didn’t happen, that there was no airplane in Des Moines from Long Beach on April 22.


But flight records and video pretty much clear up those doubts.

Signature Flight Support in Des Moines filed its report with the Des Moines Airport on the flight. We reported what it said, but to summarize:

*Flight came from Long Beach
*Charter customer was World Atlantic Airlines
*VIP information was Government ICE charter
*Departing flight from Des Moines to Atlanta was WL318
*30 people were supposed to board the plane in Des Moines
*Zero were supposed to get off the plane
*Vehicle gate access was required
*The ICE/Government flight would have 5-7 armed federal agents

But surveillance video tells a different story, as does an eyewitness. According to an eyewitness, 13 children got off the plane. The surveillance video shows people boarding the buses. In total, three charter buses met the aircraft on the tarmac in Des Moines.

The wrench thrown into the situation is the fact that ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer maintains the agency had nothing to do with the operation. Neudauer said ICE does not have contracts with Signature or with World Atlantic.

On top of that, Signature Flight Support said on Thursday that it is possible it “assumed” ICE was involved due to the specifics that were given. Some of those specifics were kids from the border and armed federal agents.

All that said, Long Beach Local News talked with an air operations area worker at the Long Beach Airport. This individual said they witnessed and helped facilitate the boarding of the flight. They said that children were being escorted by ICE agents on the tarmac.

If it wasn’t ICE, then the suggestion given to The Iowa Standard was to talk with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. These individuals really haven’t responded at all. This email is all The Iowa Standard has been offered other than a daily update on how many kids are in custody.

“The Office of Refugee Resettlement is unable to confirm what was witnessed. A normal part of the program’s operations is the transport of children to their sponsors, but we cannot confirm.”

Not exactly a denial, but not taking responsibility either.

Zhan Caplan, the HHS Protocol Information Officer at the Long Beach Emergency Intake Shelter for these unaccompanied migrant children, said the Biden-Harris administration’s goal is to “get children out of CBP custody as quickly as possible and into HHS’s custody to work on getting the children placed.”

“These shelters have been set up to provide a safe, welcoming environment for children while they are reunited with appropriate sponsors here in the U.S.,” Caplan said. “These shelters have been set up to provide a safe, welcoming environment for children while they are reunited with appropriate sponsors here in the U.S.”

Caplan said he could not confirm if 100 children were flown to Iowa.

“But if there indeed were children flown there, I can assure you that they never came to this shelter first, so their intended destination would have been Iowa,” he said. “I would encourage you to reach out to ICE to see if they can confirm or deny.”

Caplan clarified that ICE is responsible for transporting children out of CPB custody and into HHS custody, which is done through a transportation contractor.

“The movement of children is dictated by a central operation managed by ICE, and coordinated with HHS,” he said. “We do not have any visibility into anything outside of the number of children that will be transported directly to us.”

All 143 children the shelter expected on April 22 were welcomed at the shelter, he added.

HHS operates permanent shelters all across the country, Caplan said.

“If indeed there were children on ap lane bound for Iowa, they could have been going to a permanent shelter,” he said. “But again, I cannot confirm and have no information about that. Kids are being moved to shelters, based on their demographics/availability of a permanent sponsor, etc. To be clear — no kids left the Long Beach EIS bound for Iowa.”

Caplan restated that if children were on a plane headed for Iowa, Iowa was their intended destination.

“You’re going to have to contact ICE about that,” he said.

Local Long Beach officials said they did not know anything about the flight. Iowa officials have said the same thing.

ICE denies involvement. HHS is telling people to contact ICE.

World Atlantic Airlines doesn’t answer the phone or return calls.

The plane left Long Beach, went to Des Moines, headed for Atlanta and finished the route in Miami.

If there is a simple explanation and this is all one big misunderstanding, someone somewhere has to have it. Of course, the note on the flight record about 5-7 armed federal agents being on the plane certainly seems to indicate some government agency was involved.

The individual listed on the record as the billing contact has not responded to an email or phone message. The name on the message machine does not match the billing contact name on the report.

Here is the video that Long Beach Local News shared of what it reports is is almost 100 unaccompanied minors being put on a plane that left Long Beach on April 22.

Here is the security footage from the Des Moines Airport that shows everything that happened to that plane after landing in Des Moines and before taking off. Unfortunately the footage does not show the back of the plane.

Based on the eyewitness report from the Des Moines Airport, 13 kids got off that plane in Des Moines.

They’re somewhere.

And while it certainly seems tiring and frustrating to run in circles on this story, continuing to report on it is the best way to eventually get to the truth.

We will keep chipping away, and we will keep our readers updated every step of the way with us. We will continue to try to tell you what we know and how we know it. And when people dispute what we think we know, we’ll tell you why it is disputed.

The truth lies somewhere and it lies with someone. Let’s hope that truth comes out sooner than later.



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