U.S. donates lifesaving aircraft to Honduras

The United States’ donation of three specially outfitted airplanes to the Honduran Air Force has helped to save lives and disrupt illegal drug trafficking.

The last of the three U.S.-designed and -manufactured Cessna aircraft — built for challenging missions that might include high winds, water landings and short, rough runways in hard-to-reach locations — arrived in Honduras in December 2018.

The donated aircraft help to disrupt narcotrafficking and other criminal activities in previously inaccessible locations, General José Luis Sauceda, commander of the Honduran Air Force, told a reporter for the U.S. Southern Command’s news magazine, Dialogo.

The Honduran Air Force was able to destroy 61 clandestine airstrips used by drug traffickers in 2018 — a 95 percent increase from the year before.

“We know we face a frontal fight against narcotrafficking, and can only counter this crime if we are united,” Honduran Minister of Defense Fredy Santiago Díaz Zelaya told the press.

Saving lives

The donated planes also have been used to transport more than 300 sick and injured people from Honduras’ remote regions and islands to urban hospitals for emergency medical treatment, all in record time.

“These aircraft save the lives of many fellow citizens,” Honduran Air Force pilot instructor Captain Oscar Josué Elvir Vásquez told Dialogo.

Besides medical evacuations, the Honduran Air Force will also use the aircraft for rescue missions during natural disasters, humanitarian assistance and other emergencies in the country and in Central America.

The aircraft donation is in addition to the $5.8 billion the U.S. has pledged to invest to promote institutional reforms and development in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

“The addition of these aircraft increased the military air fleet’s operational capabilities and opened new areas where our country’s military aviation didn’t have real operational capability,” Sauceda said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “For our part, we know that if our partners in Central America are stronger, the United States will be stronger as well.”