An Oklahoma City pilot says he is out tens of thousands of dollars in lost business and attorney fees after federal agents seize his airplane.
US Customs and Border Patrol kept the King Air before deciding the pilot and owner did nothing wrong.
Jim Hensley, the owner of American Jet Charter, was piloting the aircraft on Labor Day weekend when customs agents in McAllen, Texas pulled him off the runway, and quickly determined the seven passengers on board will illegal immigrants.
“At that point I felt it’s just a situation they’re just going to arrest them and I’m going to go on my way,” said Hensley.
Not so. After five hours of questioning agents finally said Hensley could go. But his airplane had to stay.
“His discretion was he was taking it and I couldn’t do anything about it,” said Hensley.
While Customs and Border Patrol touted in a press release that they seized the airplane, Hensley hired an attorney, who worked with the US Attorney's office to get his plane back.
“As far as we can tell, this is the only time they’ve done this to a 125 Charter company.”
Finally, the government agreed to release the plane, but the process was expensive and lengthy.
“If the airplane would have flown like it normally does, we’re estimating about $50,000 worth of lost revenue on the airplane while it was gone.”
And Hensley's not convinced he or someone else won't land in this position again.
“That’s what we’re being told is they don’t have the authority to do what they did.”
In order to get his airplane back, Hensley signed an agreement not to sue the government over all this. He is however working with several aviation groups to try and prevent this from happening again.
News 9 tried to talk to Customs and Border Control about this but so far no-one has returned our calls.