Bigger than Aeromexico, El Chapo’s ‘airline’ includes hundreds of planes and thousands of airstrips
In the last decade, the Sinaloa Cartel owned the largest fleet of airplanes in Mexico, with 599 aircraft seized between 2006 and 2015.
The country’s flag carrier, Aeromexico, operates just 127 airplanes.
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s organization also operated a vast network of runways throughout the country’s northern fringe, with 4,771 clandestine runways detected and destroyed in that period of time.
According to information provided by the National Defense Secretariat (Sedena) to El Universal newspaper, Guzman’s operation relies on ultralight planes capable of transporting up to 500 kilos of drugs per flight.
Cessna’s small, piston-powered aircrafts were the most popular in the last decade thanks to their ability to take off and land on runways just 300 to 400 yards long.
Next in popularity were Rockwell, Gulfstream, Piper and Beechcraft – all aircrafts that were made in America.
According to Sedena, the Sinaloa Cartel has drawn a number of air routes for its drug operations that typically end in the mountains of Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Durango, known as the Golden Triangle, from where they are then smuggled into the U.S.
In the last four years since Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto took office, Mexican authorities have detected 894 clandestine airstrips on the Mexican border.
“I provide more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than any other person in the world,” Guzman told Sean Penn in his Rolling Stone article before being recaptured in January. “I have a fleet of submarines and planes.”
A secret testimony filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago in late 2014 revealed Guzman also owned a personal fleet of Boeing 747 jets, speedboats, submarines, tractor trailers and freight trains.
Despite its leader being in prison, the Sinaloa Cartel continues to be the No. 1 supplier of illegal drugs in the U.S.