The Drug Runners

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This page last updated on 04/17/2017.

Copyright 2001-2017 by Russ Meyer


Way back in 1993 when I was working for E-Systems, I was elected...nay, railroaded into being President of the E-systems Flying Club.  I was elected to this office by a cheerful band of no-good pilot ruffians.  I didn't even attend the meeting in which I was elected!  When I found out, I swore and then swore that I would only act as interim President for a couple of weeks until they could find another guy to stick it to.  Well, those two weeks turned into three years.  Years I now remember with fondness.

Ah yes, we all took part in many exploits, committing many flagrant acts of aviation.  One incident in particular nearly...well, kind of almost...got my flying buddy, Larry, and I accosted by the Commerce, Texas police department on suspicion of drug running.

It all started on a sunny mid-March day.  My flying buddy, Larry, and I spent the first few days of spring talking about what we planned to do during the new flying season.  Ah the possibilities!  Larry was telling me, in exceptional detail, about a flour bombing contest he participated in one time.  That sounded like a lot of fun, and I was getting really interested in trying my hand at it someday.  Then it hit me...the flying club!  Of course, the flying club.  Instead of our usual spring picnic, we could all fly out somewhere and have a combination picnic/flying contest, featuring flour bombing.  Yeah, that's what we'll do!

Larry and I set out to organize the event.  We wanted to hold it at an airport that was out of the way, so we wouldn't attract a bunch of gawkers.  Someplace that didn't have very much traffic.  We needed a place we could have pretty much to ourselves.  I suggested Commerce airport.  I had flown out there some months earlier.  Far away from anything, way out in the country without many houses around, no control tower, hardly any traffic.  Perfect.  With the site selected, Larry and I decided to fly there and scope it out ahead of time.  Since neither he nor I had ever organized anything like this, we wanted to do a dress rehearsal of the various contests.  For the flour bombing contest, Larry filled paper sacks with gypsum and tied them shut.  We thought if we actually used flour it might get wet with dew, cake on the grass, and kill it.  We certainly did not want to upset the airport manager.  Gypsum wouldn't do this, and would help the soil too.  Larry called the airport manager and explained what we wanted to do.  The guy said it was OK for us to hold the contest there.

On May 15th, Larry and I both rented Cessna 152s and flew formation out to Commerce.  My wife Jane came along and Larry took his son.  It was a fabulous flying day; clear skies and smooth air.Larry flying formation with Jane and I; May, 1993.  The fields vibrant with spring grasses.  Larry and I took turns maneuvering around one another, snapping pictures.  After arriving at Commerce airport, we set up the flour bombing range and practiced bombing various targets from different altitudes.  We tried several different targets before settling on one that was easy to see from a moving plane at 50 feet.  Some "bombs" wouldn't split open on impact.  We fidgeted around until we figured out how to assemble them so they would reliably break.  Finally, we tested our set-up for the spot landing contest.  We applied 4 inch wide florescent colored tape across the runway.  The idea was to land as close to the tape as possible without undershooting.  It was very hard to see the tape as you flared for landing.  We messed around and finally settled on a combination of tape and few small signs on stakes at the runway edge.  Finally satisfied with our preparations, we packed up and headed for home.  The Big Event was to take place on June 26th.

A few days before the Big Event, Larry called the airport manager again, just to make sure everything was still OK.  After talking to him for a while, he asked Larry whether we had been out to the airport lately.  Larry acknowledged that we had been out there several weeks ago.  The airport manager said Commerce police had found bags of white powder scattered around the airport property.  They collected all they could find and sent them to a state lab for analysis.  He asked Larry if we had seen any suspicious activity.  Larry told him those bags were probably ours.  What!?  We just had to laugh, because it was probably our bags of gypsum they found.  We assured him the lab results would show the unknown substance to be powdered gypsum.  "Well, I sure hope so, or the police are going to want to talk to you guys!" he said.  We never heard from the police, so I imagine they didn't find anything.

After this, I discovered that, in fact, drug runners do use small out-of-the-way airports in Texas as drop-off points.  They come in over the border, flying low, and land at tiny little country airports.  There they transfer their contraband to a waiting truck.  The police around the state are alert to this and check airports regularly for unusual activity.  Some other pilots I know have been detained by police for nothing more than arriving at a small airport late at night.  A couple of pilot buddies of mine, Oscar and Mike, went flying one particular Saturday night.  They arbitrarily picked a small desolate airport in West Texas as a destination.  A few minutes after landing, a police car pulled up.  The two were separated and Oscar was questioned.  Why are you here, what is your business, what do you mean you just flew out here for the fun of it!?  Meanwhile, another police car pulled up and the other officer cross examined Mike.  The officers compared stories and after 20 minutes let them go.  It was unnerving.  The officers seemed surprised that anyone would just be flying around in the middle of the night, landing at obscure little airports, for "fun" no less.  Obviously, they were not pilots or they would have understood!

Epilogue:  We held the flying contests on June 26th and it was a big success.  The contests went off without a hitch.  Man it was fun!  I managed to win the spot landing contest flying a Cessna 152.

My winning landing.

My award.