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By Hempology | January 23, 2006

An Oceanside resident arrested in Oregon after allegedly smuggling an estimated $2 million worth of marijuana in an airplane is sitting in federal prison in Eugene, Oregon on $1 million bail.

The Nov. 19 incident not only saw 56-year-old Qualicum Beach home owner Harvey Allen Gable and 36-year-old Brian Jeffrey Lindroos, of no fixed address facing as much as 40 years behind bars, but has also led U.S. authorities to pay more attention to activities at small, rural airports.

According to a report in the East Oregonian, federal authorities have begun to look at isolated airports as possible entry ways for illegal drugs coming into the country.

Airport authorities don’t have the authority to inspect a plane or its cargo and there is no Transportation Security Administration or law enforcement agency on site to conduct security checks, unlike at commercial airports.

Authorities believe methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine are smuggled into Oregon from Mexico, while the Canadian border is subject to smuggling of marijuana.

Many of the small, rural airports, such as the Burns Municipal Airport where Gabel and Lindroos were arrested, have self-service cardlock gas pumps and landing strip lights that can be turned on by double clicking a plane’s microphone while on approach. This situation is ideal for those who wish to refuel at night without attracting any attention.

Because of the Gabel matter, American authorities have begun sifting through self-service fuel records at the smaller, isolated airports in an attempt to get a clearer picture of the extent of aerial drug smuggling in the region.

Meanwhile, Qualicum Beach airport manager Sandra Keddy says the local facility also has a cardlock fuelling system and airport lights which can be turned on by pilots as they land. She adds that security at the airport consists of perimeter fencing and regular checks by Citizens On Patrol members after hours.

“If they find anything untowards they would call the RCMP,” she says. “Of course, one would hope all our on-site leaseholders would also contact the authorities, and we have staff out there on a regular basis through working hours.”

Keddy says she has never been aware of a need to check planes for drugs and she questions under whose authority airport staff would be able to do so.

For his part, Oceanside RCMP Staff Sergeant Bill Van Otterloo says there are no systems in place to prevent drug smuggling out of the local airport.

“I think the only time we would become involved in any type of searching of aircraft that come into the airspace would be if we had prior knowledge of criminal activities,” he says. “We have no plans to search planes as they leave here. That is something that would have to be done in cooperation with a whole series of other partners in the aviation field.”


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