The Mother Of All Ramp Fees?
It's not every day a personal airplane gets a parking ticket. It's especially rare when the aircraft in question is a Gulfstream bizjet. But that's apparently what happened recently in Honduras, according to the Miami Herald newspaper. Back in February, a Gulfstream GII landed at the capital's Toncontín airport outside Tegucigalpa shortly after 11:00 pm local time. Its crew left the big bird sitting among a few Cessnas and near the U.S. embassy's Beech King Air. Dubbed the "jet misterioso" by local media, according to the Herald, the pilots have not been seen since but others are using the episode as evidence that the country's airspace is porous and being used to transport illegal drugs. "This is an indicator that there is a constant violation of our airspace," Honduran President Manuel Zelaya told newspaper. "There are regions of this country that are dominated by drug cartels," no matter how unlikely it is for someone to use a Gulfstream as a drug transport. Indeed, the Herald reported that local law enforcement used drug-sniffing dogs to search the jet but found no evidence. Meanwhile, whoever wants to fly it out of Honduras must first pony up some $265,000 in parking fees and fines.
According to the Herald -- which did not publish the GII's registration number -- local authorities have invested a great deal of time and energy in tracing the jet's ownership and history. It revealed that two Mexican pilots landed well after the airport usually closes to operations. Once they secured the airplane, the two pilots completed the appropriate paperwork, telling authorities the jet was going to be shown to a potential buyer -- who never showed up. The Gulfstream was registered to a Mexican banker, Mario Alberto Andrade Mora, and its registration and Mexican insurance expired less than an hour after the landing. Even more interesting was the route the Gulfstream took before arriving in Honduras. The Herald related that the El Heraldo newspaper managed to track the jet: It left an airport near Caracas, Venezuela, at 4:15 p.m. that afternoon, en route to Puebla, Mexico. Instead, it landed near Mérida, Mexico, in the Yucatán peninsula, at 10:10 p.m. Then, it flew back to Tegucigalpa, perhaps with a stop in Guatemala. After being parked a day, Honduran authorities were quick to size up the airplane's value: Since the crew had not paid the parking fees, the attorney general eventually impounded the jet. An attorney appeared in March to try to resolve the matter but, for now, it remains in Honduras. AVweb will try to publish an update on this case in the future, if it is ever resolved.