Photo: Modified hang gliders becoming increasingly popular for drug smuggling
We’ve seen makeshift ramps used to help drug-carrying trucks over the U.S.-Mexico border wall/fence, submersibles full of drugs, women sticking drugs in their *ahem* lady parts, tunnels dug right under the border, and pot hidden in jalapeños, but now, a new mode of transportation is being used to smuggle drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border: souped-up hang gliders.
The ever increasing inventiveness of drug smugglers has led to an increase in the number of ultra light, often motorized, aircraft flights. These aircraft have all-terrain wheels for bumpy landings, and carry from 150 to 250 pounds of drugs – depending on the weight of the pilot. Some are painted black and may have dark tarps covering the cargo, which usually hanging in metal baskets attached to the bottom of the framing, to make for a more stealthy landing.
Arizona sees the majority of these flights and authorities have arrested 36 people in connection with this method of smuggling. Since the pilots tend to make their return flights as quickly as possible, those arrested are mostly members of the ground crews who load the drugs – mostly marijuana – into trucks.
The pilots also face the possibility of death, like one pilot who died after only one side of his load released and he spiraled out of control and crashed into a lettuce field in Yuma, AZ.
This type of smuggling has become a common enough problem, that now well-known Democratic Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords introduced a bill last year to stiffen prison terms for these smugglers.