Though most of the world's largest narcotics gang's aircraft are a lot smaller than the Mexican flagship carrier's planes, the Sinaloa have flown at least one Boeing 727; the planes fly drugs, gang members and bales of cash.
The Mexican government has seized 599 Sinaloa planes, suggesting that the fleet is much bigger than that.
German-born pilot Jorge Gustavo Arevalo-Kessler pleaded guilty to a money laundering charge. A former Mexican Air Force fighter pilot, Arevalo-Kessler turned down a job offer with Etihad to fly for Sinaloa.
According to El Universal, if the Sinaloa Cartel's fleet was legal, "the cartel would also compete as the most lucrative airport company in the country, operating 4,771 clandestine airstrips between 500 meters and one kilometer long, nestled in the heart of the mountains in northern states."
The Sinaloa Cartel is an international organization, but it is most heavily invested in northwestern Mexico centered around the state of Sinaloa — where the cartel takes its name. According to the newspaper, the organization's airstrips are heavily concentrated in Sinaloa, with the greatest number in Baja California opposite the Californian border.
But what Arevalo-Kessler's case shows is that the the Sinaloa Cartel does not have to be legal to compete with the world's airlines. A job offer from Emirates — one of the world's best — and career in the Mexican air force gave him rare opportunities to work in aviation. But he went to work for El Chapo.
The Sinaloa Cartel Has More Planes Than Mexico's Biggest Airline
[Robert Beckhusen/War is Boring]
(via Naked Capitalism)
(Image: AeroMexico Boeing 737-800(W) XA-AMJ, BriYYZ, CC-BY-SA)