The 78-year-old pilot of the Learjet that crashed in Mexico early Sunday morning with Regional Mexican singer Jenni Rivera and her entourage onboard was not licensed in the United States to carry passengers on a commercial flight, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Miguel Pérez Soto, a Mexican citizen, held a U.S. license that was "not valid for the carriage of persons or property for compensation," according to the Federal Aviation Administration's website. His license was also restricted to visual flight rules (VFR) only - meaning that he was not authorized for the instrument-controlled flying that can be necessary when skies are not clear. U.S. regulations also allowed Pérez Soto to fly only when in possession of a valid Mexican license together with his FAA-issued license.
In a report published on its website Wednesday, the Mexican Communications and Transportation Secretariat (SCT) said that Pérez Soto and his co-pilot Alejandro Torres were both currently licensed to fly in Mexico.
According to the SCT, Starwood Management, which owned the plane, said that Rivera was thinking of purchasing the jet for her private use and the company was therefore allowing her to use it on a promotional basis, without paying a fee, implying that any issue about the Pérez Soto piloting a passenger plane would not apply in this case.
The SCT also reported that according to Starwood, the plane's promotional use made void generally accepted international rules governing cabotage, which would prohibit a commercial U.S.-owned plane from transporting passengers between destinations in another country. The Starwood plane was traveling from Monterrey, Mexico to Toluca, outside Mexico City, when it went down.
Mexico's Civil Aeronautic branch of the SCT, together with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board, were continuing the investigation into the flight Wednesday, examining documents and objects found at the crash scene.
The remains of bodies found have been taken to Monterrey University Hospital for forensic testing to identify the bodies.
The SCT estimates that the complete investigation into the fatal crash will take from nine months to a year.