Memories of the Turbo Commander 900 by Paul Pitts | The JetAv Blog.
Would you believe for many years the Turbo Commander was the backbone of DEA’s counter narcotics operation Central and South America? The addition of a Turbo Commander 900 to the Premier Jet inventory led me to recall many hours of flying these beautiful and capable airplanes around this hemisphere during my years as a Special Agent Pilot for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Fast, maneuverable, robust and able to handle rough environments made the aircraft the choice for air smugglers and for the narcs.
The constant battle for funds internally to buy new aircraft and success at capturing traffickers and their aircraft led the DEA Aviation Division to take the better seized aircraft and put them into service. There were a number of Commanders to choose from as DEA and Customs became successful at penetrating these criminal groups. Of course, the aircraft we put through a complete rebuild and upgrade program. Meticulous inspections led to new avionics, wiring, rebuilt systems, engine certification and paint and interiors. We also bought a few, the last three built by Rockwell.
So, what were they used for? Just about everything you can think of. The agency used this ship to do undercover work, moving agents and host country police and judicial authorities around countries with limited transportation systems, delivering tactical teams to raid clandestine labs and hunting fugitives, medevac and providing general logistical support for operations throughout South, Central and North America.
At one time DEA operated ten of these aircraft; the only larger fleet operated by Wal-Mart. But alas, in 1995, when the Clinton Administration cut DEA’s funding, the Aviation Division had to suffer a 33% cut in personnel, ops money and aircraft. Some of the first ships to go to auction were the older Commanders and this began a slow slide to the replacement of the aircraft, and by early part of the first decade of this century they were gone.
If my logbook could only talk. Next time, missions I will remember.
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