Contributed by: Don WinnerBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - This afternoon I received the following email from Mr. Rafael Barcenas, the Director of Panama's Civil Aviation Administration, in response to an earlier article about the missing Cessna aircraft that had been seized in a drug related case and grounded by the FAA: "Dear Mr. Winner,The events described in your article FAA Had Grounded Missing Cessna With US Tail Number in Panama are not true at all and you can call the US Embassy in Panama where there is an FAA office to get the true version of it.
The aircraft was seized by Fiscalia Primer de Droga in Panama and was given in custody to Panama CAA for operation and safe keeping of the asset. The aircraft was legally operated by the CAA and all US authorites related to this aircraft were properlly informed since it started flying almost a year ago.
I flew this aircraft my self in several ocation on oficial mission, as did more that 20 of our staff including all Directors within our institution. We even have several ministers and congressman that had to fly in this aircraft during times of crisis. I have to tell you that this aircraft saved more than 20 lives doing RESCUE missions in of injured people in Kuna Yala. The pilot involved participated in several of this events.
The aircraft was legally operated and there is no violation of FAA regulation or any other regulation because it was labaled a STATE aircraft and operated within the boundaries of the Republic of Panama. The pilot was properly qualified and had gone through several months of operational supervision by other captains of our Linea de Vuelo de AAC y Linea de Vuelo Presidencial.
It is a common practice by governments to use in the benefit of the country assets that have been seized on drug operation (cars, airplanes and boats). This aircraft went through very extensive maintenance at our facility before it was released for flight duties.
I think there is no harm on giving people a complete story, but I all velieve that miss informing is not a good practice when there are 6 familes and a whole institution in pain for the disapearace of their loved ones.
The goverment of Panama is putting all assets in helping find all of the occupants of the aircraft, as weel as giving the families all the support we can offer.
Thanks For The Clarification: My job is to get the whole story, and also to get the story right. Thank you very much for the official clarification on the status of this particular aircraft. I know Panama regularly and routinely seizes all kinds of property from drug traffickers, including boats, planes, vehicles, as well as real estate. And I also know taking care of and warehousing all of those assets can be a drain on state resources. It seems to make the most sense to either keep using the asset to keep it airworthy (as in this case) or lacking that, to simply sell the asset off at a fair market price. Then, if the accused is ever found innocent and a court orders the asset to be returned, then they would receive the money from the sale. The worst thing you can do to an airplane is just park it on a ramp somewhere and allow it to rot in the sun and rain. In any case, my heartfelt condolences go out to the friends and family members of those who lost their lives in this terrible accident.