Right now, as thousands of Americans are being pointlessly poked and prodded in a security theater session by the stage props, known as the T.S.A. Illegal and unregistered aircraft are regularly entering American airspace over the continental United States. These aircraft will enter unchallenged, and there will be no fighter jets scrambled to intercept them or surface to air missiles on standby to eradicate an unknown air incursion over the continental United States.

While on the border, I encountered several low flying, privately owned aircraft that did not display on public flight tracking data. These aircraft operated at a median of 500ft above ground level, without operating lights,  in no to low population areas, and at slow speeds. They flew on a South to North axis from Mexico. These aircraft are being tracked on a number of radar systems, such as the Tethered Aerostat Radar System, or TARS but little to nothing is being done about them, or what they are doing in American Airspace.

A Tethered Aerostat Radar System in West Texas. Image courtesy of Buck Clay.

I asked the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents on the ground, throughout later encounters with CBP, and even when I spoke to the CBP union as to nature of these aircraft. In response, was the unfortunate conclusion that I had already come to. These aircraft were illegally operated by unknown persons, and the only recourse that federal agents on the ground have against these aircraft is, “to get a tail number.”

That’s right if you happen to be on the ground when one of these aircraft are overhead, get a tail number. The southern border of the continental United States of America is defended by, the possibility that we may see you, and if we do, we may get your tail number. A tail number, because that’s effective. After all, page one of every criminal, foreign agent, terrorist, and smuggler handbook states that one must, register your aircraft and flight plan while making an illegal incursion across international borders

There is some logic to getting a tail number, for accountability or tracking, but an attempt to get a tail number is as far as it typically goes. Even so, these illegal aircraft are not flying in for vacation. They are typically flying into airdrop their cargo at a designated drop zone, or will deploy their cargo using GPS beacons for smugglers on the ground to track and recover. For more precious cargo they will make a quick landing in the middle of nowhere. More often than not what is delivered is not on the ground for long, and by the time a course can be projected, the aircraft in question is already gone.


Although it will be rough, a landing zone is only limited by the imagination and skill of the pilot in Americas’ Southwest. Image courtesy of Buck Clay.


It would not be difficult to load up a small cargo plane full of Russian intelligence operatives, and then hook them up on  static line parachutes. They could jump from 1,000 ft with some cargo, over the southwest American desert to gather intelligence and conduct sabotage on the many military installations in that region. The civilian aircraft that delivered them would return to Mexico with no-one even slightly aware of what really just happened.