Ultralights drop drugs and fly away, never landing

Smugglers use unique entrance from Mexico

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Ultralights initially flew as far north as the Phoenix area but they now generally stay within 30 miles of the border, said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of investigations for ICE in Arizona. Their small fuel tanks require pilots who fly far north to either refuel or take apart the aircraft and truck it back to Mexico.

Pilot Jesus Iriarte was arrested in October 2008 after landing an ultralight with 222 pounds of marijuana strapped to the frame in Marana, Ariz. — nearly 100 miles north of the border — and was sentenced to prison.

“Gone are the days when they could come deep into the U.S. undetected,” Mr. Allen said. “They really don’t want to be on the ground anymore. They’re dropping it and flying away. … It makes them less vulnerable.”

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