Warning to Pilots Flying to Western Mexico and Baja California

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Before you fly into Western Mexico or Baja California, read and heed this warning from the Aviation Crime Prevention Institute (ACPI) about the sharp increase in aircraft thefts in the region.

According to the Aviation Crime Prevention Institute (ACPI), there has been a sharp upturn in aircraft thefts and associated violence in western Mexico and Baja California. In March, ACPI reported that three Mexican-registered aircraft were stolen in one week alone. One Cessna 402 pilot was approached by a gunman, shot dead and thrown off the aircraft. A Cessna 206 pilot was also forced out of his aircraft by gunmen.

On February 16, 1997, race car driver Bobby Unser's 1976 Cessna TU206, tail number N500BU, was stolen in San Carlos, Baja California, Mexico. The aircraft has a Robertson STOL kit and oversized tires and wheel fairings. It was painted red, white and blue with "Bobby Unser" logos on both sides.

ACPI logoACPI says that the worst areas are Baja, Sonora, Oaxaca, Guerrero and Sinaloa, and that flying into remote areas can be extremely dangerous, especially for pilots of Cessna 206, 207 and 210 models. Landing at unattended or unsecured airports and landing strips in these areas is asking for trouble. Pilots are advised to confine their operations to populated areas with attended airports.

Since late in 1996, drug traffickers have been stealing aircraft from these areas of Mexico, sometimes using deadly force to do so. According to informed sources in law enforcement and professionals working in the area, short field capable (STOL) aircraft are preferred by the traffickers for hauling harvested marijuana from staging areas in the Sierra Madre Mountains to distribution points in other parts of Mexico.

Aircraft equipped with anti-theft devices should be warned that the last aircraft stolen in Mexico had a prop lock and throttle lock installed. The owner reported that the thieves removed this devices and was gone within 15 minutes.