American Airlines certainly takes the term ‘a nose full of coke’ to a new level as a maintenance worker discovered 30 pounds of cocaine stashed in the plane’s nose cone during a routine check in Tulsa.
The maintenance employee noticed the extra baggage inside the aircraft which operated an earlier flight from Bogota, Colombia worth approximately $200,000 and notified the authorities.
Apart from the stunning fact that someone can just put 30 pounds of stuff inside an aircraft’s nose without raising any suspicion, it’s also a scary thought because what if this would have been something more dangerous such as explosives?
I read about this at Conde Nast Traveler Magazine this morning (see here).
An American Airlines maintenance worker in Tulsa, Oklahoma stumbled upon something unexpected—and alarming—during a routine maintenance check of one of the airline’s Boeing 757s on Sunday night. Hidden behind some suspiciously new insulation in the airplane’s nose cone were seven bricks of cocaine, weighing in at 30 pounds with a total street value of at least $200,000, according to the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO).
In what sounds like a throwback to the 1980s or an episode of Narcos, the flight, originating in Bogotá, Colombia landed in Miami on Sunday evening, where it was scheduled for a maintenance check. Because Miami International was too busy, however, the plane was sent on to the Tulsa Maintenance Base for its check.
It was there that an American Airlines maintenance worker found the contraband, while inspecting the electronics bay in the plane’s nose cone. When the worker spotted the packages, he immediately called in the TCSO, who seized the seven bricks of narcotics and has since turned the investigation over to the Drug Enforcement Administration. An American Airlines spokesperson told Condé Nast Traveler that the company’s corporate security team is working directly with law enforcement in the investigation. …
While the recesses of a plane’s electronic system are probably a more discreet place to stash a whole lot of contraband than in a rolling suitcase, this time it didn’t make it out of the airport. It’s still unclear how the packages got behind the insulation of the nose cone, but one thing is clear: Some Miami-based cocaine-buyer watched that plane fly on to Tulsa with more than a little trepidation.
Obviously the involved parties must be close to the maintenance crews in Bogota and Miami and are probably American Airlines employees as well. Maybe if the plane overnights in Bogota (not sure of their turnaround schedules) it’s a bit easier for someone to access it but at Miami International Airport? You don’t send such a shipment unless you know for sure that you’ll have a way of getting the stuff out and the only viable option is someone with access to the AA maintenance hangar who knows how to open and close the nose cone.
As the CN article mentions as well, someone isn’t gonna be happy about the unexpected schedule change for this aircraft. The same operation has probably been completed successfully many times before already.
What it shows is once again a complete failure of the security apparatus. You can pester passengers all you want at the airport but it just takes someone inside the company or a service provider to make the entire effort falter. These guys could have placed anything in there. Narcotics, guns, explosives… you name it!