Cuban pilot who defected in Soviet-era biplane lands at Dade-Collier airport

‘Defector from Sancti Spiritus’ uses Cuban government’s AN-2 to fly to Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport

OCHOPPEE, Fla. – Federal agents are investigating how a pilot managed to fly from Cuba to Florida on Friday morning in a single-engine biplane. A witness fishing in the Florida Straits shared a video showing the Soviet-era biplane flying low over the water.

The pilot was a 29-year-old man and he was flying alone, according to Rachel Torres, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He landed the Antonov AN-2 at about 11:30 a.m., at the Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport, at 54575 E. Tamiami Trail, in Collier County’s Ochopee community.

“The pilot of the plane notified the Miami-Dade County tower at TNT Airport that he was low on fuel and had to land there minutes before he landed,” said Greg Chin, the Miami-Dade Aviation Department’s communications director.

The biplane, which remained near the runway on Friday afternoon, had the yellow and blue identifiers of the Empresa Cubana de Servicios Aéreos, or ENSA, which provides crop dusters in agricultural areas. The plane’s identifier on the right-top wing was CU-A1885.

CiberCuba, a digital news site run by exiles in Spain, identified the ENSA pilot as Rubén Martínez and reported that Cuban authorities had detained his mother and sister in Santa Clara after Martínez flew out of Sancti Spíritus, landed in El Cedro, departed at 7 a.m., and vanished with the plane.

“He told airport staff that he was a defector from Sancti Spiritus, Cuba,” Chin said.

Cuban officials announced in May that ENSA had started to make domestic cargo deliveries out of Sancti Spíritus to lower costs. The Cuban government’s Cuban Aviation Corporation, or CACSA, manages ENSA.

Witness shares video of low flight at sea

Watch the 6 p.m. report

A 29-year-old Cuban man who was flying alone landed the Antonov AN-2 at about 11:30 a.m., at the Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport, at 54575 E. Tamiami Trail, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Watch the initial report on the landing

U.S. Border Patrol agents from the Miami Sector are investigating a single-engine biplane landing on Friday in Ochoppee.

Local 10 News Assignment Desk Editor Wilson Louis and Investigative Reporter Jeff Weinsier contributed to this report.


About the Authors:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.