A thief broke into a vintage jetliner owned by the Alberta Aviation Museum over the weekend, stealing parts from the plane before seemingly trying to cover the crime up as an act of vandalism,  museum officials say.

“It’s unusual and it’s upsetting …. it was obviously planned. And it’s very disappointing,” said Tom Hinderks, executive director of the museum. 

The Pacific Western Airlines Boeing 737, which used to be housed at the museum’s space in Edmonton, has been stored at the Villeneuve airport since November.

The plane was broken into sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning, according to the museum. A number of specific artifacts, such at the plane’s emergency door, were taken. He said if the museum needs to go to the manufacturer for replacement parts, it will cost "many thousands of dollars."

Hinderks says that the items that were taken were those that would still have market value. He says that, combined with the way the thief was able to get into the plane, is a sign that the suspect is someone who is familiar with aircraft. 

While the parts would be hard to move in Canada, he says the thief might try to sell them overseas.

"Anything in Canada, no part can be put on an aircraft, new and used, without complete paperwork," he said.

"But other parts of the world, third-world countries aren’t as picky." 

Hinderks says before the theft, the 737 was flight-worthy and was used for public tours and educational programs.

Morinville RCMP are investigating the break-in.