A Shady & Confusing Private Jet Crash In Belize

Filed Under: Misc.

Plane crashes are usually super sad, though this one is just sort of… plain odd?

An Unmarked Gulfstream Crashes In Belize

As reported by ASN, this Monday a Gulfstream II crashed in Belize. The plane, which was built in 1977, was attempting to land on a dirt road near Blue Creek, Orange Walk, Belize, which is right by a river on the border with Mexico. As you can see, the plane cracked into two.

Where The Story Gets Weird(er)

So, where does this story get suspicious?

  • There was no flight plan for this flight
  • The plane didn’t carry a formal registration, but rather just had the letters “PVO” on one of the engines
  • The plane is believed to be N511TL, which was taken over by an unknown owner in Mexico in November 2017
  • There were no distress calls, and when the crash site was found, there were no people and no cargo, which suggests people were trying to flee the scene

This leads investigators to believe that this plane was being used to transport drugs or other illegal items across the border between Belize & Mexico. It’s believed that there were no casualties, though I guess it’s also possible that there may have been serious injuries or casualties, and there was an attempt to cover up the identity of those people, so they could have been removed from the scene.

I Have So Many Questions

As someone who knows very little about international drug trafficking (other than having seen a countless number of episodes of “Locked Up Abroad”), I am so curious about so many things.

Is it normal for drug traffickers to use private jets to transport drugs? Logically I would have assumed they’d use much smaller planes, which could more easily land places, and also more easily fly under the radar.

Flying under the radar for years with an unmarked Gulfstream just seems like a lot.

Or are these traffickers actually carrying literally a ton or more of illegal substances? Or are they flying really long distances, which is where the Gulfstream would come in handy?

And how many airports are there with proper runways that can accommodate a Gulfstream that still let you fly under the radar? And can you really fly an unmarked Gulfstream for a couple thousand miles without a flight plan without causing problems (assuming that’s the reason for using a plane like that)? Were they actually trying to land a Gulfstream on a dirt strip, or was that an attempted emergency landing?

I imagine a lot of people are being paid off in operations like this, but still… wow!

So. Many. Questions.

Comments
  1. This kind of things are fairly common in Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica and other countries in Central America. They normally use Hawkers or other aircrafts that are bought at scrap value, they tear down the interior, load it with the precious cargo and flown down there, they usually land in strips or roads, and after they retrieve the cargo the aircraft is simply set on fire. Just google it, there are a fair number of drug runners stories about aircraft set on fire in Central America.

  2. Uhm – so many questions?
    I actually have none to be honest.

    – Cartels have so much cash, I am only suprised they didn’t use a brand new plane.
    – It was clearly a drug smuggling operation.
    – Most likely an inexperienced/barely licensed drug-running pilot.

  3. @ Jeff — I wasn’t questioning it was a drug cartel operation? I was curious about the logistics…

  4. I agree with Ben – How can a jet plane operate (takeoff, fly, land, get clearances, FAA, local armies, etc.) with no registration?

  5. Attempting to land on the dirt road or crashed near a dirt road? Seems based on orientation it skid over that road coming left to right of frame.

  6. @Daniel – they don’t bother with clearances because they don’t operate through normal commercial airports unless they’ve paid off the tower. This isn’t an issue because very, very few countries actually have full coverage/control of their own airspace beyond normal commercial air traffic routes.

    @Lucky “carrying literally a ton or more” Yes. Thousands of tons of drugs are smuggled in the Americas on a yearly basis.

  7. https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/drug-traffickers-buying-up-planes-in-south-florida-new-times-investigation-finds-10249767

    https://corporate-jet-investor.instantmagazine.com/cjiq/issue2/special-report-drug-smuggling/

    From the second story –
    “Arrested pilots have talked about there being as many as 500 aircraft in the fleet. Most of them are small piston aircraft capable of landing on desert strips, but there are also longrange business jets and converted airliners.

    El Universal, the Mexican newspaper, has used freedom of information requests to discover that the Mexican government seized 599 aircraft from the Sinaloa cartel alone, between 2006 and 2015.”

  8. I have no idea about airspace anywhere else but the US…and here you don’t have to talk to anyone, nor operate a transponder over large portions of the US.

  9. Take a puddle jumper flight on tropic air in Belize and you’ll land on runways that would make you long for this road.

  10. If you’ve ever been to Belize you’ll know that there are essentially 4 roads in the entire country. And of that only 50% of the roads are what I would call functional as the rest has extremely large potholes that they fill with dirt which is washed away when it rains (it rains a lot.). Thus a cartel plane being wrecked like that isn’t all that surprising. The current plane used by the government for their high level officials was left in a similar fashion. It was abandoned on the road to Dangriga after tons of drugs were offloaded and trucked north to Mexico. Belize is a very convenient place to ferry drugs to as it has essentially no military and is highly corrupt.

  11. @Lucky: I am bit surprised with you being kind of naive about what happened here. New like these you can find almost every week across Latin America. It might not be a Gulfstream but there is always a small aircraft crash or emergency landing that once someone gets to it it looks like a ghost plane. Yes, drugs, counterfeit products, money being laundered, etc… There are many of these flights happening every day.

  12. Alot of people in florida are still living very nicely from all the cocaine cowboys flying in the 70s and 80s

  13. I too am curious about the logistics. Such as: if one were to leave their job with United, would they do better financially flying for the Cartel?

  14. And how many airports are there with proper runways that can accommodate a Gulfstream that still let you fly under the radar?

    Venezuela is your most likely answer Lucky, probably supported or operated by the Cartel of the Suns.

    When hard core socialists are done stealing other peoples money/properties people in lower levels of power start doing organized crime to keep the lights on.

    When soldiers, airport workers and airplane mechanics struggles to get by in life these things becomes a sad fact.

    Civilization is only a few meals away from ending at all times. Never forget that.

  15. Have you seen the documentaries on the tombstones (tombhouses/ mausoleum?) of fallen pilots flying contraband for the cartels? Dude – their graves in Mexican graveyards are bigger than 50% of dwelling houses in this world. Some of them are even air conditioned!

  16. Well, I don’t know about the jet part of it, but it is certainly no surprise to see. When I was living in rural New Mexico, oh 10-15 years ago, it was commonplace for a dark, apparently empty, field to suddenly be flooded with lights run off car batteries. Equally suddenly a plane would appear from the dark sky, land and the lights would disappear. Perhaps the field would light up again shortly and the plane would take off. Or perhaps not and the plane would be ‘found’ and claimed by a government drug agency.
    Shots were sometimes fired. Ordinary citizens learned not to treat the occurrence as an entertaining spectacle, but to pull off the main two-lane, state road and get under any available tree or bushes for cover.
    It was riveting to watch before we recognized we should be very, very scared.

  17. Suggest you get a copy of Frederick Forsyth’s “The Cobra” which while a work of faction, has some really interesting insights of the logistical extremes the cocaine cartels are willing to go to get their product into Europe & N America. Forsyth & the early Tom Clancy novels were the best examples of faction I have ever read and obviously written by two people who have very good connections to the intelligence services of their country and allies.

  18. Look up flights from South America to Africa. Lots of bizjets and older 727s have been used for this. If you’re an aviation journalist I’m surprised you have so many questions.
    Older Gulfstreams/Sabreliners/Jetstars have been cheap to acquire for a long time and are ideal for this use as are HS125/Hawker 800s. As were Caravelles, DC-6s and 7s and Constellations before and no doubt old CRJ and Embraer 135/145s will be in the near future.

  19. Police, customs and other official agencies of Belize are riddled with corruption. Other planes have been abandoned on roads in Belize before. If I remember correctly, one was a very big Russian prop. Cops and Defense forces have been caught unloading these planes before.

    At least one Police gang was caught robbing a bank.

    Belize is a very corrupt and very violent country. I left after 22 years as crime and violence became worse.

  20. DCYukon – Actually the Embassy, CIA, DEA jet is usually parked to the north of the Belize (Goldson) Int. airport when not in use.

  21. It’s not that hard to operate an instrument
    unmarked aircraft when one can bribe the airport officials and/or extort them. It’s rather simple as long as they stay within short distances. The drug trade has created an entirely parallel economy in which officials and law enforcement benefit as well.

  22. Hi Ben,

    The logistics are actually not that complicated.

    Something like the Gulfstream 2 involved in this crash can probably be picked up for about $100,000. It’ll be clapped out and fit only for scrap, but if you’re hauling several tons of cocaine one way, then it’s ideal. Whilst I’m sure they didn’t mean to crash it, there is a decent chance they meant to abandon it. I have no idea what several tons (anything up to about 4-5 depending upon how much fuel the plane had to carry to get to its destination) of cocaine is worth, but 100k is a drop in the ocean in comparison, making the aircraft disposable.

    In terms of strips to operate to and from, you’d be amazed at the actual number of airstrips dotted around south and central America. Literally thousands. There is nothing to stop a cartel fueling the aircraft at a private strip, taking off and heading to their destination.

    In terms of being caught whilst in the air? For starters, I’d image primary radar (ie, it sends out a ‘ping’ and receives one back showing where you are) coverage is extremely sparse in that part of the world. Where it does exist, it will be subject to all manner of interference making it extremely easy to literally, ‘fly under the radar’. If you are seen? Who cares? In five minutes you’ll be gone again, and what is going to intercept you? Certainly not the Belizean air force! They barely have one and certainly have nothing that could catch you or pose any threat.

    If you aren’t too bothered about flying the jet again, it is quite feasible to put it down on a mile of relatively straight dirt road. As evidenced above.

    I’d imagine quite a few clapped out old biz jets end their days in such a fashion. Operating like that into Belize would actually be relatively simple. Much more of a challenge would be going North. I would personally use something with a composite airframe and wooden props, but I guess the economics get tricky regrading payload Vs visibility and the ability to literally abandon your aircraft at a moment’s notice.

    If I didn’t have morals I’d be an exceedingly rich man.

    Hopefully that’s cleared up some of your questions, its certainly a bloody interesting topic!

    Cheers,

    Jim

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