U.S. Customs and Border Protection seizes King Air, arrests pilots

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) interdiction of a private Beechcraft King Air 200 and its occupants at the Edinburg International Airport in Texas on November 22 resulted in finding three passengers who were undocumented aliens that had been smuggled into the U.S. The CBP officers arrested the individuals and the two U.S. citizen pilots and confiscated the turboprop twin.

Because this case is an “ongoing investigation,” CBP officials declined to comment about where the flight originated, the aircraft’s registration, or how the agency was tipped off to the smuggling. They did say this is the second air-smuggling attempt via private airplane disrupted in the Rio Grande Valley that week, but they provided no further details.      

“Aviation smuggling is nothing new in the Rio Grande Valley,” the CBP said. “We rely on the general public to alert us to suspicious activity. However, CBP air and marine operations will continue to conduct random, and unpredictable, pilot document and immigration inspections on international and domestic flights via private aircraft.”

As a law enforcement agency, the CBP has federal authority to complete pilot document inspections. “Charter air companies and private aircraft pilots who are flying undocumented aliens will be arrested and charged with criminal activity, as well as have their aircraft seized by the U.S. government.”