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Author: Subject: A real story on aircraft theft in baja and Mexico
capt. mike
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[*] posted on 8-15-2015 at 09:54 AM
A real story on aircraft theft in baja and Mexico


Writer and victim has permitted me to relate. He , his plane and location of theft will be anonymous here. so....

Hi Mike, When I say that I have finished it, I only mean to say that I have had paid investigators both Mexican and Anglos looking into it. This is the way that it works. I am not going to write a book or a pamphlet.
I did talk to BBP and they were aware of a lot of this.

First, my avionics were all electric and no vacuum gauges were in the panel. It took an experienced IFR pilot to fly.

New Avionics stack with Garmin 1000. It took me a while to get used to it, so I know that a newbie did not learn to fly it the first time in or he would have been upside down. It was 4:30AM. I had a prop lock, wheel lock and throttle lock and was sleeping about 100 yds from the plane,
It was towed down to the other end by hand after the wheel lock was disabled (not sure how since I did not find one filing on the ground). And the rest was disabled and they even took the pitot tube cover and cover for the plane. I found no evidence of any metal filings on the ground.

Investigation by p.i. Mexicans are sure of the following:

The whole thing begins with the gas guy at San Felipe. He finds out from the desk where you are going and how long. ( I know that they didn’t drive a guy across the desert 50 miles in hopes of FINDING a plane). They probably have the same thing going with Mexicali and maybe Ensenada also.
They had lots of time to find a good pilot and drive him down there. The marines have both roads blocked off and have a contingent of 30 over at XXXXX property. No way this happened without them knowing. Mordida went a long way. Unable to find out if threats or money was used.

It was suggested that I take the battery out (later) but was told that they would come and get me, get the battery and shoot me. These are very serious guys.

The plane was flown to Culiacan and then points further south which we lost. I had a brand new stack including the 405Hz. I called them and asked if they put locators in. An extra $5/unit. No. Utter stupidity.

The whole thing is crooked. Including the people at the resort, the military and the customs/gas people. I have written affidavits in/and by Mexicans. There is nothing that I am going to do with it. You are not allowed into a court of law unless you have a FM2 or you are an “immigrado”

I was paid $69000 by my insurance. This is all. I did see a lawyer on this. He told me that winning would feel like losing twice. That was the cost of my new panel. Not counting that I had new windows, paint and upholstery. I will avoid Mexico.

I am happy with my new (old) NxxxxM. If you see me, you will see me. It has a IO 550 and flies at the bottom of the yellow. Got to watch that and slow down in LA to land in San Diego.

Have fun,,
You know it was some of the best years of my life,

Signed by victim.

This is why I no longer will fly to Mexico. Very sad.







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[*] posted on 8-15-2015 at 10:06 AM


Quote: Originally posted by capt. mike  
Writer and victim has permitted me to relate. He , his plane and location of theft will be anonymous here. so....

Hi Mike, When I say that I have finished it, I only mean to say that I have had paid investigators both Mexican and Anglos looking into it. This is the way that it works. I am not going to write a book or a pamphlet.
I did talk to BBP and they were aware of a lot of this.

First, my avionics were all electric and no vacuum gauges were in the panel. It took an experienced IFR pilot to fly.

New Avionics stack with Garmin 1000. It took me a while to get used to it, so I know that a newbie did not learn to fly it the first time in or he would have been upside down. It was 4:30AM. I had a prop lock, wheel lock and throttle lock and was sleeping about 100 yds from the plane,
It was towed down to the other end by hand after the wheel lock was disabled (not sure how since I did not find one filing on the ground). And the rest was disabled and they even took the pitot tube cover and cover for the plane. I found no evidence of any metal filings on the ground.

Investigation by p.i. Mexicans are sure of the following:

The whole thing begins with the gas guy at San Felipe. He finds out from the desk where you are going and how long. ( I know that they didn’t drive a guy across the desert 50 miles in hopes of FINDING a plane). They probably have the same thing going with Mexicali and maybe Ensenada also.
They had lots of time to find a good pilot and drive him down there. The marines have both roads blocked off and have a contingent of 30 over at XXXXX property. No way this happened without them knowing. Mordida went a long way. Unable to find out if threats or money was used.

It was suggested that I take the battery out (later) but was told that they would come and get me, get the battery and shoot me. These are very serious guys.

The plane was flown to Culiacan and then points further south which we lost. I had a brand new stack including the 405Hz. I called them and asked if they put locators in. An extra $5/unit. No. Utter stupidity.

The whole thing is crooked. Including the people at the resort, the military and the customs/gas people. I have written affidavits in/and by Mexicans. There is nothing that I am going to do with it. You are not allowed into a court of law unless you have a FM2 or you are an “immigrado”

I was paid $69000 by my insurance. This is all. I did see a lawyer on this. He told me that winning would feel like losing twice. That was the cost of my new panel. Not counting that I had new windows, paint and upholstery. I will avoid Mexico.

I am happy with my new (old) NxxxxM. If you see me, you will see me. It has a IO 550 and flies at the bottom of the yellow. Got to watch that and slow down in LA to land in San Diego.

Have fun,,
You know it was some of the best years of my life,

Signed by victim.

This is why I no longer will fly to Mexico. Very sad.





Interesting story. But isn't airplane theft about the same as boat or auto theft? Thieves often target particular boat engines, particular cars, and the thieves often plan in advance,... Carry adequate insurance. Can't tell for sure, but sounds like the crime victim was underinsured, eh?
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[*] posted on 8-15-2015 at 10:11 AM


Thanks for sharing Mike...

So, San Felipe airport to some unnamed place? Thief drove 50 miles across the desert from?? He can't say where the airplane was stolen at?
Then the plane was flown by the thief to Culiacan? Is that right?

Is he saying he didn't remove the battery because the thief would have shot him if he did?

Is there not some single wire that can be removed (like a coil wire on a car) to keep the engine from starting?




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[*] posted on 8-15-2015 at 10:55 AM


Was this a recent event or happened a while back? I have been under the impression that aircraft theft has been down a lot in the past few years. Having said that, one aircraft hijacking incident a few years back in Mulege was carried out at the muzzle of an AK47, so these guys are dead serious. They wouldn't hesitate to forcibly take anything missing from the airplane to accomplish their mission.
It has long been suspected that the personnel in Mexican customs have been involved in tipping off where aircraft checking into Baja are going. This is easily defeated by filing for a destination way south of where you are actually going. There is no problem with landing short somewhere and staying under the present system.
As for the cartels finding qualified pilots, I'm sure a pilot is made an offer they can't refuse. Who could say no to El Chao?
I now prefer to take the RV to Baja rather than fly down anymore for a lot of reasons.
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[*] posted on 8-15-2015 at 12:05 PM



San Felipe airport has been suspected before about tipping off the location of certain planes
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[*] posted on 8-15-2015 at 12:18 PM
What was that noise I just heard?


It must of been Mexico shooting themselves in the foot again. It's so sad.:mad:



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[*] posted on 8-15-2015 at 12:47 PM
this actually happened a few years ago


Quote: Originally posted by LancairDriver  
Was this a recent event or happened a while back? I have been under the impression that aircraft theft has been down a lot in the past few years. Having said that, one aircraft hijacking incident a few years back in Mulege was carried out at the muzzle of an AK47, so these guys are dead serious. They wouldn't hesitate to forcibly take anything missing from the airplane to accomplish their mission.
It has long been suspected that the personnel in Mexican customs have been involved in tipping off where aircraft checking into Baja are going. This is easily defeated by filing for a destination way south of where you are actually going. There is no problem with landing short somewhere and staying under the present system.
As for the cartels finding qualified pilots, I'm sure a pilot is made an offer they can't refuse. Who could say no to El Chao?
I now prefer to take the RV to Baja rather than fly down anymore for a lot of reasons.


I was only allowed to publish this if I kept details anonymous. this owner is well known in Baja circles with 30 years experience. I now have 5 friends over the years who had their C 210s or 206s ripped in Mexico.

I can't give you any more details than this David. Also for 666 info many underwriters set a MAX on how much hull they'll provide. the balance you self risk. this victim is a professional with advanced degrees and can afford to gauge what risk he is willing to take.




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[*] posted on 8-15-2015 at 06:09 PM
Capt. Mike


Thank you for this post !! I have lots of camp side fire storys over the years and have one or two my self about small planes in Baja...good Real Info...again,,, Thanks,,,,,sad but true....
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[*] posted on 8-15-2015 at 08:49 PM


It's too bad that they don't come equipped with a radio controlled kill switch.




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[*] posted on 8-15-2015 at 08:54 PM


One of the benefits of a conventional gear (tail dragger) aircraft like the Cessna 180/185 is that while they can carry a heavy load in or out of a short rough strip they are hard to drive and not typically targeted by thieves. I was never too worried about leaving my 180 on a remote strip, heck, I was lucky to get it in there without wrecking it and I had 1000 hours or so of tailwheel time, Joe Blow tricycle pilot would probably wad it up trying to steal it....



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[*] posted on 8-16-2015 at 08:52 AM


Wow, this makes for great reading. I do have a couple of comments, though. First the Garmin 1000 that would cause a "newbie to be upside down". Yes, maybe if he flew into IFR conditions but certainly not an issue in day VFR flying.

Next was the $69,000 pay off for insurance. I was paid the declared value of my T-210, $150,000 after a 3 month period and the insurance company did send an investigator to BCS. I never heard anything about what, if any, he found out. This was in 2004. I continued to fly to Baja until 2012 and the only change was I had to change insurance companies.

Tricycle geared planes were certainly the main target of thieves, but, 9 months after the T-210 was stolen, somebody tried to steal my Cessna 185, a taildragger. By this time I had come to the conclusion that locks DO NOT stop a dedicated thief. I had a duplicate fuel line fabricated and filled with epoxy along with a hidden battery kill switch. Upon landing I would switch out the normal fuel line for the plugged one. These efforts are the only reason this plane wasn't stolen, too.

For my $.02, I would still be flying to Baja if I had a plane. There is not much difference in protecting your possessions, whether they are planes, trains or automobiles. Over the years I have had things stolen from our place in Baja, including an ATV. I took these losses as a challenge to improve my defenses and I have been rather successful since then.

Mexico is not for everyone, the challenges are just different, still a great place for those that can adapt, IMO.
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[*] posted on 8-16-2015 at 10:29 AM


Thanks for that story....it does leave a few questions.

I'm curious why a simple electrical kill switch is not enough deterrent. A plugged fuel line would seem to hamper a reasonably quick takeoff if needed.

I agree that the level of insurance seems low in comparison to the actual loss, was that really a choice?

With motoged's motorcycle theft originating from the same area, it leaves me with a negative view of San Felipe. I guess that's coupled with the fact that it's the only place I've picked up tourista along the peninsula. Was there ever a consideration to paying some mordita to get the plane returned? I know it's not a moto but in light of the value vs loss, I would pay to get it returned rather than take such a huge hit....




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[*] posted on 8-16-2015 at 10:47 AM


Offering a reward for a stolen plane probably wouldn't bear fruit considering who probably stole it and for what purpose. A reward is a great idea for everything else especially motos....



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[*] posted on 8-16-2015 at 02:46 PM


Quote: Originally posted by Sweetwater  


... With motoged's motorcycle theft originating from the same area, it leaves me with a negative view of San Felipe. ....


Sweetwater, as I read this, the plane was not stolen in San Felipe, it was only fueled up there, and it is an airport of entry into Mexico. One can fly several hundred miles, the rest of Baja perhaps on fueled up plane.

50 miles of desert road to the airstrip where it was stolen is the only clue.

Asuncion, Lopez Mateos, Punta San Francisquito are only a couple of guesses. That it was next reported out from Culiacan across the gulf on the fuel it had is informative.




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[*] posted on 8-16-2015 at 04:28 PM


Consider a few asides here; a stolen airplane is different than a local coyote joy-riding or re-selling an ATV or big screen TV. I'm just guessing here, but willing to bet Baja has a whole lot less avionics radar and 'security coverage' than..... well, the better destinations on the mainland. ERGO: a better equipped small aircraft taken by and for a Cartel would be worth literally millions of dollars in illegal revenue, and if found and confiscated, so what? How much did Chapo pay for his tunnel? And who helped him? I see Baja as 'open season' on these planes, and the amount of mordida paid to places like the San Felipe Airport for flight information would be the cost of my lunch to those who want it.

Folks just have to admit it, "The Times, They Are A-Changin'". In some obtuse looks, it's a whole new world down on the Peninsula, and it ain't going back to the days when bush pilots were respected, revered, and loved for their generosity. That last part will always be there in the bush, except for the coyotes who will make a year's wage by helping out "Shorty".

Each story here have each their own merits, especially security; but as was mentioned, "Locks only keep honest people honest". These hombres are playing hardball. Ask the 60,000+ dead people in the last 10 years. Mexico has lost as many (now more) people to narco-trafficking than we did in The Nam, and these plane thefts aren't for a joy-ride around the Bay.

SOLUTION (which nobody seems to ever offer...) :
If possible, a pilot's association or group with some clout (kind of like one of our PAC's in D.C.) negotiate with the Mexican Government for better security, be it a small Army detachment at airfields (which I know already exist in some places) .... and i'm chuckling to myself right now at my own naiveté. SUUUURE they will.

Tracking devices mandatorily installed.

Auto-explosive crippling devices pre-approved by insurance companies that set off at a certain altitude, like 10' altitude or 50 knots..... still at the airport terminus. You've lost the aircraft anyway.




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[*] posted on 8-17-2015 at 10:28 AM


I dont quite understand why this is being reported now when the theft was a FEW YEARS AGO? There was a time when there was a rash of plane thefts all over the peninsula but I havent heard of one lately. I understood there was a mole in the Ensenada airport and probably San felipe too where most pilots clear customs. I wonder if they are no longer working there now as thefts are not common now and most pilots know not to give away their destination.

As for location where it occured...there are very few places where you can sleep so close to your plane and Asuncion isnt one of them. Interesting that he accused the owners of the property where he was of complicity.

I love Floatflyers remedy and it would be very effective.

We are getting more fly in visitors lately as the thefts seem to have stopped and as our strip is so well maintained. The military and police are very nice and check the planes several times a day...more if you give them gas money!







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[*] posted on 8-17-2015 at 10:57 AM


I feel the theft should have been posted at the time of the theft, not a few years later, as Shari stated!

A post such as this one makes it seem that plane thefts are making a comeback!


Quote: Originally posted by shari  
I dont quite understand why this is being reported now when the theft was a FEW YEARS AGO?




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[*] posted on 8-17-2015 at 02:58 PM


Quote: Originally posted by Sweetwater  


With motoged's motorcycle theft originating from the same area, it leaves me with a negative view of San Felipe. ....


Ken,
Yes, the $15,000 MP reward was worth every peso in my case....the bike was worth about $16,000 CDN w/ mods....so just less than 10% reward made sense to me....

I was lucky to get it back....more careful since then, I must say....




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[*] posted on 8-18-2015 at 09:25 AM


The purpose was not to sensationalize a new theft but to give some insight as to what happened on his experience. The Dr. waited a long time to send out the facts to his many Baja flying friends. He gave me permission to posted it, some redacted, on several web sites which I did.



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[*] posted on 8-18-2015 at 11:16 AM


Thank you Mike... no shooting the messenger!:light::cool:



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