Jamaica's Version Of Terrorism

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"Legitimate users have suffered very adversely over the years," watching the number of aerodromes shrink by 90 percent, "the consequence of a few illegal users abusing the system," said Christopher Read, manager of Airpak Express, a courier service. To the cynics, it may sound like a forecast for GA in the U.S., but in Jamaica the threat is not terrorists, it's drug smugglers. It seems they're switching back from boats to light aircraft as the conveyance of choice for getting cocaine and marijuana to market. "[It's] something that we are very, very concerned about," Carl Williams, Jamaica's top narcotics officer, told the Sunday Observer. It's also got legitimate GA operators in a lather (again), worried that increased security and even flight restrictions will take their toll (again). "We have a continued vested interest to ensure that our operations are maintained in a legitimate mode," Read said. About 10 years ago, the smugglers began using oceangoing speedboats for deliveries because authorities were getting too good at detecting and intercepting aircraft. Now, as more boats get seized, the drug runners are switching back to airplanes and changing tactics. In some cases the drugs are dropped in remote locations, while isolated landing strips are used by others. Read and other Jamaican-based operators have noticed the upsurge in traffic. "Up until a couple of years ago [local pilots] could tell you about every airplane in Jamaica," Read said. "Now, there are a number of airplanes at airports and nobody knows who the owners are or what the airplanes do for their existence."