Special Operations in Rural Virginia

The town of Bridgewater, Virginia has a nice “lawn party” every summer. If you like old tractors and trucks, it’s a good place to visit on a hot July day. If your interests or needs are more in the area of “special operations” or “laser targeting” of insurgents, you still might be in the right place. Just head south out of town, cross the bridge over the North River and make a left onto Airport Road. Eventually, you’ll come to the Bridgewater Air Park – the home of Dynamic Aviation.

If you are lucky you might see a plane taking off or landing, but the extra-fortunate will get to see one of Dynamic’s “gray ghosts” – Beechcraft King Airs and Bombardier Dash-8s loaded up with sensor pods and cameras and painted to not draw attention to themselves (at least in locations where that matters). If you want to record the hard-to-read tail number on one of these planes, you’ll have to use your memory since there is a sign by the road that forbids photography of the premises – a prohibition which would probably be enforced by the airport’s own police force.

If on the other hand, you want some “Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance” services and have a lot of cash and political connections, you might be welcomed right on in. Since Dynamic is a subcontractor for Science Applications International Corp (SAIC) through SAIC’s Special Projects Division, you might get to meet one of their spooks. It needs to be noted that SAIC happens to be the company that developed the NSA’s PRISM software which was exposed by Edward Snowden and the Guardian newspaper. SAIC has had it’s share of former CIA and NSA directors working for them including Bobby Ray Inman and Robert Gates. At SAIC, the revolving door between government and business spins faster than the propeller on a Dash-8! SAIC is controversial enough to have earned themselves an episode of WNET’s Exposé series in 2007 called Friends in High Places.

The next step in your adventure might involve talking to some of the good folks from “Special Operations Solutions LLC (Sole Proprietorship).” From the looks of things, these folks will be an integral part of your ISR mission. Remember, the money is all coming from the war, er, defense budget, and it’s big enough for many contractors to get a piece of it.

Note: Either all of these companies are using the same generic pictures of Dash-8’s or the Dash-8’s all belong to Dynamic Aviation (and someone really should brush up on their photoshopping skills). We are betting on the latter.

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Desert Rock Airstrip Activity – N8300G Flights

A plane (above) has shown up on flight tracking websites that has been visiting a very interesting and remote airstrip in the Nevada Test Site called Desert Rock Airstrip. This was noted by a user named “gariac” on the ATS website. The NTS is operated by the U.S. Department of Energy and has been used for nuclear testing since the early 1950’s. In 2002, the airstrip was used for a purpose unrelated to nuclear blasts. According to Michael Isikoff and David Corn in their book Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, the Central Intelligence Agency flew anti-Saddam Iraqi exiles to Desert Rock for the purpose of training them in preparation for “conducting covert operations within Iraq as part of a larger effort to overthrow Hussein’s government.” The planned operations, called “Anabasis,” were intended to provoke Hussein into retaliating and giving the United States justification for invading Iraq. Some of the planes that flew into Desert Rock for this operation were also used for “extraordinary rendition” flights according to Trevor Paglen in Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon’s Secret World. Aircraft registered to Tepper Aviation, Path Corporation, One Leasing, and Premier Executive Transport Services among others showed up at Desert Rock before making appearances in Guantanamo Bay or Kabul with “detainees” aboard.

So Desert Rock Airstrip is a place where “black” stuff happens. Unfortunately, none of that history reveals exactly what N8300G is doing there now. It is registered to Dynamic Avlease, a subsidiary of Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater, Virginia. A recent article on the Flightglobal website sheds some light on their operations. The plane has made one stop at Creech Air Force Base which is used for drone piloting and training.

Curious.

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Weapons Trafficking Plane Comes to KSHD?

A Saab 340 operated RAM Air Services (tail number N703RS) came to Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport (KSHD) a few months ago. This plane was mentioned in a United Nations report in July 2011 on page 252 for possible unsanctioned weapons deliveries to Somalia:

13. Another operator, “RAM Services”, leasing aircraft owned by “S3B Leasing LLC”, based in Alexandria, Virginia, and possibly linked to the United States Government, also conducted 17 flights to Somalia with a Saab 340 bearing US registration N-703RS between 27 October 2010 and 24 February 2011.

Fascinating that sleepy little Weyers Cave, Virginia gets a visitor which such notoriety.

UPDATE: N703RS photo removed

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“Bringin’ in a Couple of Keys”

In our previous report on the Samaritan’s Purse “Torture Taxi” (N874SP), we noted that one of the signatures on the FAA registration form (page 3) belongs to Virgil Gottfried, Director of Aviation for the charity. His signature also appears on the FAA records for two other planes with suspicious ownership histories.

According to the FAA airworthiness records for N391SA (a Beechcraft King Air 200), in 1999 Gottfried worked for a company named Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater, Virginia where he was the Director of Maintenance. The plane had tail number N256AG and had been purchased from AGES Aircraft Sales and Leasing of Boca Raton, Florida who had just acquired it from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Huntsville, Alabama. In October of 1999, it was sold to Stanford and Associates in Fredericksburg, Virginia and the tail number was changed to N391SA. Bates Properties, Inc. in Monterey, California bought it in May 2000. During its ownership by Dynamic Aviation, Stanford and Associates, and Bates Properties, it had a number of upgrades and modifications done to it. No further work shows up in the FAA records through 2011 when we obtained them.

Then things take a curious turn. In August 2004, Bates sold the plane to Sky Way Aircraft, Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida. One month later, it was sold to Mario Gonzales Restrepo of Caracas, Venezuela. Two months later, N391SA – bearing the false tail number of N168D – was found on an airstrip in Nicaragua loaded with cocaine and some AK-47s.

Bill Conroy of Narconews.com has been following the story of this plane (and others like it) for years:

On a fall evening in a cotton field in Nicaragua, a group of armed men placed a series of torches in a line of planters along a makeshift runway. About half an hour later, around 9 p.m. that evening, Friday, Nov. 26, 2004, a twin-prop Beechcraft King Air 200 touched down on that rural runway and came to a stop. The assembled men began to unload the plane, which was packed with cocaine, while holding the sole witness to the event, a local field hand, captive.

Go ahead and read Conroy’s article. Then do an internet search on N391SA

Done yet? Spooky things going on, eh? And maybe the spooky turn took place earlier in the chain of ownership… Remember that all of the modifications to this plane took place while it was owned by Dynamic Aviation, Stanford and Associates, and Bates Properties.

Another odd part of this story is that the fake tail number used in Nicaragua – N168D – actually belongs to a plane owned by Devon Holding & Leasing in North Carolina. That plane is alleged to have been used in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. Remember James J. Kershaw, President of Stevens Express Leasing? He is also the president of Devon Holding & Leasing.

It may be that it is just a combination of bad luck and coincidence that these companies owned a plane that ended up in a drug deal (and an odd one at that), but something similar happened again to another plane – N258AG – that had the same chain of ownership up to Stanford and Associates.

More on that plane later.

 

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Does Samaritan’s Purse Have a Special Relationship with Certain Intelligence Assets?

In our inital post, we noted that an online aircraft ownership tracking site shows that Stevens Express Leasing, Inc. – a suspicious Tennessee aviation company – sold a King Air to Samaritan’s Purse. This is confirmed by FAA records we have obtained. A key signature on this document belongs to James J. Kershaw, the president of Stevens. (His signature appears more than once, but the handwriting looks different.) Kershaw has been found to be one of many “sterile identities” by Trevor Paglen and A.C. Thompson, authors of the book Torture Taxi. A sterile identity is a non-existent person whose signature is used on documents of companies created for covert operations. Flying terror suspects to places where torture is known to take place – extraordinary rendition – is one kind of covert operation.

Stevens Express Leasing is not the only suspicious company that Kershaw works for. Devon Holding & Leasing in North Carolina and Premier Executive Transport Services in Massachusetts are two more companies that Paglen and Thompson name in their book. The New York Times also found this tangled web.

So how did Samaritan’s Purse zero in on this particular plane? How did they do a deal with people who don’t exist and who work for companies with no working address aside from a lawyer’s office? Virgil Gottfried, SP’s Director of Aviation, should know. His signature is on the FAA forms.

We thought that Samaritan’s Purse was a Christian organization. Since when did Evangelicals learn how to conjure up ghosts?

1/6/2012 Edit:

In the registration filing for N4042J, look at the signatures of James J. Kershaw on pages 9 and 17. Why do they look so different?

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Frankie Bought a Torture Taxi

Go to this link and search for N4042J (now registered as N874SP), and you’ll see that Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham’s humanitarian relief organization, bought a Beechcraft King Air 200 from a company named Stevens Express Leasing, a Tennessee company. Stevens has gained some notoriety in the last decade due to its planes being used in the extraordinary rendition program. The most infamous plane was N313P referenced in these documents. Some relevant stories are here, here, and here.

Who did Frankie (or Virgil Gottfried) need to know to make that deal?

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