Plane carrying illegal immigrants lands at Cannon

Staff and wire reports

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — A small plane carrying six illegal immigrants was forced to make an emergency landing Monday at Cannon Air Force Base before running out of fuel, according to base officials.

Military controllers offered the pilot a choice of landing at Cannon or Clovis Municipal Airport and the pilot chose to land at Cannon.

Capt. Andre Kok of Cannon’s public affairs said the plane landed safely and the base’s security forces responded. He said the Air Force takes additional security precautions when a civilian plane makes an emergency landing on base.

“We were definitely very careful,” Kok said. “Our security forces made sure the plane was secure, and our forces proceeded very carefully.”

After making sure the passengers were fine, members of the 27th Security Forces Squadron escorted them to the base’s law enforcement center.

Officials learned that only the pilot spoke some broken English. The passengers, which included one man, two women and two 12 year-old twin sisters, were questioned through the pilot, Kok said.

Investigators said the group’s Brazilian passports didn’t look “exactly right,” so federal immigration officers were called.

The six were arrested and taken to Carlsbad for processing by the U.S. Border Patrol.

He said the plane was en route from Fullerton, Calif., to Atlanta when it requested permission to land at the base. Investigators conducted several searches of the plane and found nothing out of the ordinary.

“If an aircraft has an emergency, we’ll respond to that and help out if we can,” Kok said.

Cannon is one of two U.S. Air Force bases slated for closure under the Pentagon’s base realignment and closure plan. State officials and Clovis residents have vowed to fight the closure.

CNJ Staff Writer David Irvin contributed to this report.