Plane's stopovers before Albion Park airport raid

Police raid a plane at Illawarra Regional Airport on Wednesday. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Police raid a plane at Illawarra Regional Airport on Wednesday. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

The plane raided for drugs at Albion Park airport this week had just completed a two-month journey around the edge of the Pacific – from California, via Alaska, Hawaii and the Philippines.

And it had been busy in the weeks before that, flying between small airports across the United States, from Punta Gorda in Florida, via Missouri and Texas, to California and up north to Washington state.

Aircraft records show the twin-engine turbo-prop Swearingen Merlin 3 is owned by the Oregonian Aero Club, an organisation about which scant information can be found.

Flight records indicate the plane left Seattle, Washington, on April 30, bound for Cold Bay, Alaska – a village of 108 people, one shop, one hotel and an airport.

The next day the eight-seater plane left for Honolulu, Hawaii, where it spent a day, before departing again, bound for the Marshall Islands, a series of atolls in the Pacific Ocean.

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N224HR was soon airborne again, bound for the US territory of Guam, 2000 kilometres east of the Philippines.

By the afternoon of May 5, the Swearingen was cooling its engines at Clark International Airport in Angeles City, near the Philippines capital Manila.

What happened next, and how it got into Australia, is not clear.

The next record of contact between N224HR and an aircraft control tower was when it left Coffs Harbour early on the afternoon of Friday, June 27. It was bound for Illawarra Regional Airport at Albion Park.

It arrived about 3.40pm that day, staying there since.

Investigations are continuing as to the origins of the aircraft.

The Oregonian Aero Club is not present on lists of flying clubs in the state of Oregon, has no website, and no contact numbers that could be found on Wednesday.

Whether the club hires out its planes for private use or has members who fly, is unclear.

The club is incorporated in Wilmington, Delaware. Wilmington has a population of about 75,000, and is said to have 10,000 aircraft registered there – one for every eight people.

Asset management companies advertise registration in Delaware as a way to limit taxes and personal liability, as aircraft and yachts there are automatically registered as belonging to a trustee corporation rather than a human being.

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