Two Cuban migrants landed in Florida’s Key West International Airport (EYW) using a motorized hang glider at around 10:30 AM on March 25, 2023, according to a report from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
The men entered the United States illegally, and the report said that both were turned over to the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol. No serious injuries were reported.
“There were no interruptions in service and operations continued as normal,” according to a statement released by Key West Airport, as reported by local Florida news Miami Herald.
The moment was caught on video and uploaded on several social media channels, including YouTube:
Cubans have been migrating to the United States, particularly to Florida, since the 1959 Cuban Revolution. An estimated 500,000 Cubans migrated to the US in the 15 years since the revolution. From the 1980s until the present, Cubans have continued to migrate to the United States mostly for economic reasons.
The closest distance between Cuba and Florida is 165 kilometers (103 miles).
A January 2023 AP news report showed that more Cubans are taking the risk to migrate to the United States amid deepening and compounding political and economic crises at home. Since the US government’s new fiscal year began in October 2022, around 4,200 migrants from Cuba have been stopped at sea — or about 43 a day.
According to the report, Cubans are willing to take the risk because those who make it to the United States almost always get to stay, even if they arrived illegally. The report also said that the US and Cuba do not have formal diplomatic relations, and the American government has no way to repatriate the migrants.
“Cubans are released but given an order that requires them to contact federal immigration authorities periodically to confirm their address and status. They are allowed to get work permits, driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers, but cannot apply for permanent residency or citizenship,” the AP report said.
Meanwhile, the daredevil pilots who entered the US with a powered hang glider earned the praise of local pilot Nick Pontecorvo, who told Local 10 News that he spotted the paraglider from the air.
“It was pretty awesome. To make that flight 90 miles over open ocean, especially with the wind, that takes a lot of courage,” Pontecorvo said.
Powered or motorized hang gliders can fly up to 830 kilometers, depending on the load, weight and fuel.