An average of 14 planes per year are stolen in Colombia, presumably by drug traffickers making their way north through Central America, Colombian media reported Tuesday.
The news came to light after a small plane owned by the Aerocapital corporation disappeared after taking off from Bogotá’s El Dorado airport.
The plane was scheduled for a flight to the Honduran island of Isla de Roatán, but turned off its tracking equipment en route. Two planes from the Colombian Air Force tried unsuccessfully to stop the renegade aircraft before it disappeared into Central America, according to a military press release.
Authorities later discovered that thieves boarded the plane posing as the pilot and copilot, breezing by security checks in what is considered the most-guarded commercial airport in Colombia.
The strange news caused a sensation in Colombia, where it burned its way through social networks.
But Radio Caracol’s Tuesday report revealed that the situation is not as unusual as the Colombian public thought.
Thieves steal some 14 planes per year on average in Colombia, according to unnamed sources at the country’s Attorney General’s office cited by Radio Caracol.
That figure marks an improvement. Prior to 2008, officials received reports of as many as 21 plane robberies in a single year.
Drug traffickers are allegedly behind the plane robberies and can bribe airport workers to let one slip out of the hangar for as little as $4,500—a sizable figure for a country with an $11,800 GDP per capita.
Part of the reason why the phenomenon of plane stealing had passed under the news media’s radar is that not all aircraft are pilfered in such dramatic fashion. Often times, companies will rid themselves of old planes and the new buyers will report them stolen within days of the purchase, according to Radio Caracol.