I get it, the question seems as if I'm reaching out for answers from experienced smugglers! But no. As a matter of fact, I'm trying to get answers on air surveillance & security.

Love it or hate it, these kind of smuggles are being done all over the world. However, recently I heard a story from a retired soldier stating that he used to know people who knew people who smuggled jewelries, hard drugs, guns and even people from middle eastern countries to Europe, specifically, Germany! Via planes!

In fact, he said some stuff was too valuable for them to "risk it" by land transports. He added that the pilots were experienced World War II pilots who specialized in flying at high speed in very low altitudes to make deliveries for infantry units on distress, making them unnoticed on radars and unstoppable for air defense systems.

So that's for World War II, which ended on 1945, so the question is, how can people still do this considering all the enhancements and improvements or even inventions (which some boldly have "foolproof" labels attached to their names) implemented on radar and satellite technologies? Especially on a country like Germany, with superb defense and military status?

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    $\begingroup$ I very much doubt if there are many "experienced WWII pilots" flying today, since even if they started in 1945 at the age of 15, that'd make them 90 today. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Apr 4, 2020 at 4:37
  • $\begingroup$ Related: aviation.stackexchange.com/q/74771/15311 $\endgroup$ Apr 4, 2020 at 10:21
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    $\begingroup$ You could have gone more quickly to the point. You question is basically "how do smuggler avoid all surveillance and aircraft control systems to illegally enter Europe?". The first half of the question only dilutes your point. $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Apr 4, 2020 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately @jamesqf, you have put your energy on figuring the wrong aspect, as it was never stated in the question that those pilots are held accountable for these smuggles today... at least not from what i've heard $\endgroup$
    – INF
    Apr 4, 2020 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ Those who are very successful at this will be expert at it, and are not dumb enough to answer on an open and traceable internet site. $\endgroup$ Apr 4, 2020 at 19:37

2 Answers 2


There are lots of ways to smuggle goods with planes and it depends what you are smuggling and the aircraft on which you are smuggling it. Smugglers often bank on the fact that most countries do not have or allocate the resources to search every aircraft throughly enough from top to bottom before every flight as that is simply impractical on some level. Some times all you need is a good audio equipment road case.

Generally you need to get past customs which happens on the ground and is its own set of issues. In the USA the Customs And Border Protection takes care of a lot of the searching. Smuggling sometimes happens on commercial aircraft and there is plenty of info on it here on the CBP website. In this case the goods are smuggled on aircraft that are very much on radar and flying at assigned ATC speeds. Sometimes they are even loaded by official personal. On occasion even the head honcho is involved, moving some strange things.

It is possible to "fly under the radar" but that also depends on where you are going and what their radar coverage is. Steps have been taken over the years to combat this issue. It seems that some of the smugglers have once again resorted to small aircraft.

Barry Seal, the inspiration for the movie American Made was historically a pretty prolific smuggler. The movie takes some poetic license but is based on some facts.

Seal used his knowledge of aviation to become the infamous smuggler he was. Once in U.S. airspace, Seal would drop to 500 feet and slowed to 120 knots to mimic, on radar screens, helicopters which frequently flew from oil rigs to the coast.

Within U.S. airspace, Seal would have people on the ground monitor for any signs his planes were being tailed. If they were, the mission was aborted. If not, they would continue on to drop sites over the Louisiana bayou, where duffel bags full of cocaine were dropped into the swamp. Helicopters would pick up the contraband and take them to off-loading sites, and then on to Ochoa distributors in Miami by car or truck.

Smugglers are still attempting to move product in older, but fast, biz jets with fake or missing registrations. To avoid being discovered they are apparently destroying the planes after they use them sometimes.

There is a great article on some of the history of air smuggling here. Which dates back to the early days of aviation.

This is a fairly interesting story...

Just remember, aviation smuggling is Illegal very illegal

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for replying, the links were helpful to get the general "idea" of how smuggles are done and what is being done to stop them. About the TARS technology, first time i read about it i thought, that alone can help spot the majority of the untracked flights i was talking about (as it actually did in the U.S.). However considering that the TARS technology is exclusively for the U.S., i couldn't find any sources stating that Germany, as a subject in my second question, or any other country is also using the same technology. Which leaves them vulnerable to untracked air traffic. $\endgroup$
    – INF
    Apr 4, 2020 at 16:01

People smuggle with private instead of commercial because when boarding a private plane, the security checks are less thorough and very breif. Sometimes, they don't even get checked!

But on commercial jets on whatnot, the security is held to very high standards. That should answer your question.

  • $\begingroup$ Sometimes? At least in the US, make that never. (Corporate aircraft might sometimes have their own checks, of course.) The only check is at customs, if you arrive from a foreign country. If you can avoid that, or drop your illegal cargo before landing, you're home free. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Apr 4, 2020 at 19:13

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