Fugitive Flight May Have Been Illegal Charter


The pilot of the Cherokee 140 that crashed on a night flight in the Canadian wilderness in April, killing two alleged gangsters and two pilots, had been accused of operating an illegal charter service. As we reported, the aircraft crashed near Sioux Lookout in Northern Ontario and the passengers, Gene Lahrkamp and Dustin Bailey, were on the run on murder-related charges. According to the Vancouver Sun, the 26-year-old pilot-in-command of the airplane, Abhinav Handa, had been reported to Transport Canada by another pilot at his home field of Boundary Bay Airport, near Vancouver, for flying people for money.

Azam Azami, who is a flight instructor and ferry pilot at Boundary Bay, told the Sun he responded to an ad on Facebook Marketplace offering charters for $300 an hour or $2,000 a day. He messaged the company behind the ad and posed as a prospective client and confirmed the company, which named Handa as the pilot, was offering flights for hire without the operator certificate required to fly charters. Transport Canada confirmed it had received the complaint but did not tell the Sun if it had been investigated. In late April, the aircraft hopscotched across Western Canada with the ultimate destination of Toronto before taking off from Dryden, Ontario, at 9:09 p.m. on April 29. It was in the air for about an hour before crashing in dense bush about 25 miles south of Sioux Lookout. Handa’s friend and fellow pilot Hankun Hong was also killed.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. “the 26-year-old pilot-in-command of the airplane, Abhinav Handa”

    First thought was about citizenship, not ratings…

      • Seriously?
        It matters both culturally (as a reason why someone was so casually is flying outside the norms) and again to the link to a fugitive. So yea, that was my first thought on seing the pilots age and name.

        • Improper comment!

          And you FAIL to observe that the fugitive’s names are close to Anglo ones, according to Wikipedia “Bailey is an occupational surname of English and especially Irish origin, it originated from the Normans.” (Back then there names were often of the settlement one came from – as in Sketchley, or a trade.)

          While gangsta intoxicant dealers are evil, and those in southwest BC are often of Middle East and South Asian family lineage, that does NOT make people of such names automatically guilty. Most immigrants work harder than people whose grandparents were born here.

          • It’s completely proper to ask; and more questions need to be asked under the circomstances (and that investigation is ongoing). They all did not meet up by “chance”.

  2. So one illegal flight for hire discovered by crashing and killing all aboard, hundreds of others still operating.

  3. I would think that 140 to be over weight with 4 people. I used to fly a warrior with a 160 hp engine. Even though there were 4 seats, you would be a fool to try and fly it with all of said seats occupied…..

    • good lord, I was thinking the same thing – “What magical PA-28-140 can be used as any sort of charter for four men?”
      With a max gross of 2150lb, you’ve got around 750lb or so of useful load. (Why in the world would you bring a “second pilot”?) Four men at an avg. of 200lb ea. already puts you overweight with no gas. Would we assume two fugitives had some baggage (or not?) A quick look shows they crashed around 225nm from departure, so at 100kt @9gal/hr, so that’s another 120lb overweight just to drive to the crash site. (Assuming they filled to tabs, that would be 220lb). No scenario I can think of where they were not overweight.

      Insanity. It’s like someone asking me “can I fit my basketball team in your Prius?” Well, yes and no…

  4. The more important aviation question is weather, which the tipster guessticulatas about in the Sun article I pointed Avweb to.

    ‘Karrpilot’ questions load on the airplane.

    And I presume authorities will do thorough autopsy, including looking for pre-crash wounds, intoxicants, in system, and carbon monoxide. (Which is a risk in airplanes with engine in front, Australian investigators neglected to do that in the case of a float plane pilot from Vancouver Island, a doctor questioned them and they then did check, finding CO poisoning in bodies of the pilot and front seat passenger.

    The important justice question is what the criminals were doing, they hopped across the country from SW BC – what is the approximate range of that airplane?

  5. I understand that our aviation community in this country is populated by a near majority of conservatives. So the immediate jump from a foreign sounding name to a supposition of illegal aliens flying illegally does not surprise anyone. It should however be disgusting to anyone who can read or reason. My aviation community is filled with people with foreign sounding names and I cannot think of any that are illegal immigrants. They are Americans. Even if you don’t like it. It’s pathetic that pilots who are already a minority in our population have to further divide themselves with unfounded prejudices and bigotry. My own daughter’s flight instructor has a foreign sounding name, and an accent. However, he was a far better instructor and pilot than the long list of people we cascaded through in our search for a solid instructor. As a woman she was served with a steady stream of inappropriate comments and obstacles placed in her path by the ‘favored’ list of instructors. I’m tired of the status quo disparaging anyone, including women, who don’t fit their idea of worthy. It’s probably too much to hope that this habitual preoccupation with heritage or ethnicity will ever be purged from our society. If you share that narrow mind-set you should be very ashamed. The real tragedy is that you likely aren’t.

    • We have to assume that gang members seek out their own when in need.
      Thinking otherwise is narrow minded.
      Sorry if I upset any gang members, nationalists, or fighting age males who fly illegally in Canada. 😉

    • Thank you, Willie S. I agree 100%, and applaud you for taking the time to write it up.

      Arthur J F – you know what happens when you assume.

      • Brian, you’re not curious that there is more illegal activity to the story of a non-commercial aircraft used by a non-commercial pilot and was being used for so-called “scenic tours”? I live in a border state(Texas) and we have such mishaps at night around here all the time. One would have to be blind or willfully ignorant not to understand what was going on.

    • well said Willie. Given Arthur’s response, the word you may be looking for is not conservative, but something simpler.

      Being a conservative is more about the amount of risk one is willing to accept or apply to a given situation be it social, activity, or technically related. IE, a conservative pilot would be one that set’s higher limits on weather, add a little more fuel, takes a longer route because it would be safer. A social conservative would question spending amounts, ask if some programs are needed, challenge risky laws. There may be many conservative pilots (I certainly was one), but there are a subset that can be grouped under a different title that is less complementary.

      Bad guys hire a plane/pilot to fly them somewhere and pilot makes bad decisions is about all I got from this article. Why he made those choices he took to his death, but I can agree that a PA140 with 4 males was on the back side of any performance curve and one small mistake would upset the cart, which it did.

      • It’s not about “politics” or “conservatism”, it’s about crime and those involved in it. Obviously this “scenic tours” was illegal and we need to find out how this pilots was used in that process. Simple. No need to go all “PC”.

    • This seems to be refuting a lot of statements that no one I can see actually made, and using these non-statements as a rationale to express broader long-felt beliefs about perceived bigotry within the aviation community. I don’t think gender was mentioned by any commenter, but a loved one’s anecdotal experience of industry sexism is brought into this to disparage the posting community in general regarding their beliefs on “foreign” names. I am not sure if this is appropriate. This was in a foreign country, so no one involved had anyone questioning if they are/are not an “American”. There may well have been disparaging remarks made by others, but it’s hard to absorb counter-arguments that in return seem equally broad-brushed and unsupported.

      Canada has an entirely different immigration policy than the US – like most of the world (except the US), they use a points-based system of your expected contribution to their society and they are extremely welcoming to skilled immigration. Have a quick look at the “Come to Canada” wizard tool and you can see exactly how to move to Ca. Ca identifies the skills they need and if you’re want they need, you can get residency though a reasonably short and completely logical process. (My GF and her parents and grandmother had passports in just 5yrs). There is “illegal” immigration but with a 5,500 mi moat to their south, it is not the same as the US where there are 10+ m without legal status. With government linking your healthcare to your national ID and taxes, it is much harder to work “off the books” in Ca. The people of Ca. came up with a policy and made laws and follow them. With a more or less working immigration system, they actually deport folks who don’t follow their rules.
      US policies have only 65k/yr skilled visas and another 55k for the diversity lottery that can lead a long path to eventual citizenship, so there’s not a logical path for most interested people, and so “irregular” migration and is the result here. The US system is a collection of 70+ yr old laws that no one has seriously considered enforcing for the past 40yrs which is designed primarily to reunite families plus hundreds of pages if case law and executive orders deferring actions for dozens of classes without giving any real logical path towards PR or citizenship for millions here that are here and remain marginalized.
      Most CA immigrants are from E and S Asia and go to the metro areas since that’s were the skilled jobs are, so from first hand knowledge, a place like GTA is not going to have a lot of European surnames in the local grade school and it’s common to see mixed-heritage youngsters like Aisha McGillan. Quebec has their own additional Francophone-friendly visas and tons of folks from Franco-Africa. Canadians seem to be fine with their system of welcoming the best and brightest from around the world and the resulting huge change in demographics in the past 25 yrs., and similar systems seem to work for most of the world since the 80’s.

  6. in 2019 a star football player was a passenger in a Piper Malibu which crashed in the English Channel en route from Nantes in France to Cardiff in Wales. He was travelling after a transfer fee of @15million. The inquest found carbon monoxide poisoning in the body of this otherwise fit young man. That of the pilot was never recovered. However it transpired that the pilot had no Commercial licence, was not cleared for night flying and the charter had been arranged illegally. The man responsible for the charter was sentenced to 18months in prison for breaking Air Navigation Law. No comfort for the family of the star footballer.

  7. Hey ‘usual suspect’ Arthur whoever, you do not have facts to back up your supposition.

    Police authorities will presumably get some facts, grilling the airplane owner back in Richmond BC more than TC already has over legality of operation.

    That the criminals met is no surprise, many gangstas in SW BC.

    The ‘Handa’ name comes from Pinjabi for a cooking utensil, many Punjabis in SW BC but also in UK and US, OR from Japan for half of a rice paddy. The name Abhinav Handa is common in the world. The name Hong is widespread in Korea, Communist China, and Vietnam (especially female), a very large number of Chinese and Vietnamese origin in the US and Canada of course, but one of the criminals did his killing in nearby Thailand after tracking the victim down.

    BTW, the tipster’s name Azami is common in HI, perhaps because it is a girl’s name in Japan, it is common in CONUS, it too might sound gangsta-like to you who will say it is correlation – which does not mean causation. His skin is brown. But the convicted killer was a whitey ginger, I don’t know about the person with a British-origin name. Both were wanted fugitives for gang-related murder attempts, perhaps recruited by offering huge amounts of money ($400,000. suggested by media in one recent case of someone struggling financially). I presume they could not travel by airline as they were on watch lists.

    The aircraft owner’s name shows up in Richmond BC in a search but not solidly connected from what I see so far, one person is in marketing/sales running a startup home inspection business, skin is white, hair light brown in a social media page that shows activity in SW BC. (Her name is common in North America including in movie business in US thus hard to connect information to this case, last name is Ukrainian, and nearby countries to lesser degree – people of Ukrainian descent are very common in Canada.)

    • It’s not “predudice” AFTER the crime has been committed. Then it’s investigation and investigation has to raise questions. The obvious question would “gangs” and the next question would be what kind of gang. Then what association was there to the pilot.

      This is not a simple cretificate infraction.