Destination of the Week
Hello and welcome to our third Terror in the Skies destination. This week, we're looking at a terrorist attack on a presidential candidate that eventually led to a notorious drug cartel's demise. The candidate himself survived (because he didn't board the aircraft), but the attack left 110 innocent civilians dead.
Avianca Airlines Flight 203 was a Colombian domestic passenger flight from El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá to Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport in Cali. The aircraft was a Boeing 727-21 with registration number HK-1803; it was purchased from Pan Am. It was destroyed by a bomb over the municipality of Soacha on November 27, 1989.
The Cali run is a journey of a few hundred miles over mountainous terrain, requiring less than an hour in the air. Flight 203 lasted fewer than six minutes. According to the black box found in the wreckage, Flight 203 had reached an altitude of 13,000 feet when the first explosion ripped through the cabin. Eyewitnesses on the ground saw fire shooting out of the right side of the plane. A few seconds later, a second explosion blew the plane apart, killing 101 passengers and six crew members. Body parts, luggage and pieces of fuselage scattered across three miles of hillsides, killing another three people on the ground who happened to be in the path of the wreckage.
At that time, Colombia was in the grip of the Medellín Cartel, an organized network of drug suppliers and smugglers originating in Medellín. The drug cartel operated in Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Honduras, the United States, as well as Canada and Europe throughout the 1970s and 1980s. It was founded and run by Ochoa Vázquez brothers Jorge Luis, Juan David, and Fabio together with Pablo Escobar. For a time the Medellin Cartel supplied at least 84%-90% of the United States and 80% of the World wide cocaine market. The cartel's violence earned it the enmity of the Colombian and U.S. governments in addition to that of its rival Cali Cartel.
Among the drug warriors in Colombia and the United States, there was no doubt about who was responsible for the Avianca bombing. Such an act of terror bore the stamp of Pablo Escobar, lord of the Medellín cartel, whose struggle to hold onto his vast cocaine empire had plunged his country into a ghastly spiral of extortion, corruption, assassination and mass murder. Only Escobar was ruthless enough to order the wholesale slaughter of innocents just to eliminate a single enemy, a police chief or an informant.
But when it came to figuring out who had actually executed the orders, who had planted the bombs and why, the Colombian and American governments disagreed. The American theory, as it developed over the next five years, would focus on one man, Dandenis Muñoz Mosquera. According to intelligence reports, Muñoz Mosquera had started working for Escobar at the age of twelve and made his way through Medellín's legions of killers to the top of the heap. The United States government would link him to the deaths of more than 220 people, including the Avianca bombing, the murders of dozens of Colombian police officers and judges, and numerous political assassinations.
The bombing's target was the presidential candidate for the 1990 elections César Gaviria Trujillo. Gaviria. However, he was not on the aircraft, and would go on to becomepresident of Colombia. Two Americans were among the dead, and because of this, the Bush Administration would begin Intelligence Support Activity operations to find Escobar. Many members of the cartel, including Pablo Escobar, were hunted and killed by a National Police of Colombia force, the Search Bloc, which had been trained and assisted by both the U.S. Delta Force as well as the CIA. By 1993, the Colombian government, in collaboration with the Cali Cartel, right-wing paramilitary groups, and the United States government, had successfully dismantled the cartel by imprisoning or assassinating its members.
Dandeny Muñoz Mosquera, the chief assassin for the Medellín Cartel, was convicted in a United States District Court for the bombing and was sentenced to 10 consecutive life sentences.
Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport (SKCL), also known as Palmaseca International Airport, is located in Palmira, Colombia, serving Cali and its suburbs. It is Colombia's third largest airport in terms of passengers, transporting 3,422,919 in 2010. Cali airport is the alternative airport to Bogotá Eldorado airport and other Colombian airports.
Alfonso Bonilla Aragón is located in a long valley that runs from north to south, and is surrounded by mountains up to 14,000 feet (4,000 m) high. The airport has one runway, 9,842 feet (3,000 m) in length. This runway is paved, and at an elevation of 3,162 feet (964 m). The runway can serve aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 747. Alfonso Bonilla airport is notable in that it is one of the few secondary airports in Latin America open 24 hours a day. Due to excellent meteorological conditions this airport is operation throughout the year. With Cali being the nearest population at 12 miles away, the airport is allowed to operate without any environmental restrictions. Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport has non-stop flights to the United States, Spain, Ecuador and Panama, plus direct flights to Peru.
The history of the new airport serving the city of Cali, dates back to the Valle large enforceable in sports: the VI Pan American Games. The simple allocation of the seat of an event of such magnitude and Valle forced the national government to think big and commit to building the long-awaited project. Palmaseca International Airport was inaugurated in July 1971. Critics initially feared that it was oversized, but as air operations increased, sso did the number of passengers. Given the airport facilities and technical equipment, it soon became the Eldorado alternate airport, operating 24 hours.
SKCL has a single runway:
01/19, 9,842 ft, 3,000 m
Live flight tracking is available here.
We can guide you to charts and scenery files.
And now our video selection. We'll start with an approach of RWY01 from a unique camera position on a Cessna 172.
We don't often have King Air 350 video recordings on this page. Today is an exception, and the next video focuses on the instruments during the same approach.
And we end with a jumpseat recording of a short take-off by an A320.
That's all for this week. Next week, we'll remember the about 800,000 victims of Africa's bloodiest civil war that was ignited by the shooting down of a Facon that carried the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi.