When people think of airports they probably think of these giant city like complexes that can accommodate the largest airplanes in the world.
Hardly the case. Dotted all over the country are airports of just about every size that you can think of.
Some airports have a runway that’s nothing more than a smoothed out dirt road in the middle of a field with an FAA certification to handle crop dusting planes and maybe some light aircraft.
In Philadelphia, Pa for example you have the massive Philadelphia International Airport and then a relatively short drive away you have Northeast Airport that is significantly smaller that is used for small aircraft and the like.
Also, there are some counties in Michigan that have fewer than 20,000 people on the books as permanent residents but have small airports for emergency aircraft and Cessnas and things like that. Some of these airports are in towns of less an a thousand people.
If there are aircraft registered in a town you would think there would be an airport at least nearby right?
At this very moment, there thousands of aircraft in the skies above the United States — but a shocking investigative report has revealed that over 1,000 aircraft may be unaccountable and linked to a registration scheme that is raising security concerns.
Journalists from WFAA-TV in Texas are blowing the whistle after they noticed a strange trend. There are at least 1,000 aircraft registered in the small town of Onalaska, Texas … yet bizarrely, that sleepy town doesn’t even have an airport.
“That’s equivalent to one plane for every three Onalaska residents, which is more per capita than anywhere else in the country,” the news station discovered. “Just as surprising, the aircraft are registered to only two Onalaska P.O. boxes. That’s because the aircraft owners do not live there. Not even close.”
What is happening appears to be a scheme that might be technically legal, but is pushing into a grey area.
“Onalaska is ground zero for a practice that allows foreigners to anonymously register their planes, and one that critics say makes the United States an easy target for drug dealers, terrorists and other criminals seeking to register their planes,” the WFAA report found.
Aircraft, like cars and trucks, must be registered with the government in order to operate. You may have noticed “N-numbers” on the tails of planes. Each of those registration numbers is unique, and can be checked in the FAA database to see who owns and operates the craft.
But a surprising number of aircraft N-numbers aren’t actually registered to the individuals who fly them. Instead, the ownership is obfuscated through corporations and trusts — and some of them are based outside of the United States.
“When you can conceal the true ownership of a plane, you’re putting a lot of people in jeopardy,” former FAA Special Agent Joe Gutheinz told WFAA-TV. “If you’re a terrorist and you have a way of concealing your secret ownership of a plane in the United States, you’re going to do it.”
In theory, trust companies are supposed to conduct “due diligence” when a foreign person uses this structure to register an aircraft. But some officials are raising red flags and alleging that very few checks are actually happening.