June 12, 2006
by Kevin Poulsen
A mysterious Delaware company’s single-engine light aircraft may soon be circling the sky near you.
Last year, residents of Lodi, California noticed a tiny Cessna 182 moving in slow circles over their small town, just circling and circling for a least month.
The Lodi News-Sentinel got a hold of a picture of the mystery plane, checked its tail number with the FAA and traced it to the Northwest Aircraft Leasing Corp. in Newark, Delaware. The listed address, reporters found, was a mail drop.
The plane was spotted shortly after the FBI moved in on suspected al Qaeda associates living in the area.
By then, another 182 had already been sighted making regular appearances over Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac from Washington DC, where it was also quietly circling like a vulture. That piqued the interest of nearby scanner enthusiasts, because until then the FBI favored the Cessna 172.
One of the monitors finally snagged the tail number last week, N11130, and it also comes back to Northwest.
There’s no phone listing for Northwest Aircraft Leasing in Newark, Delaware. Public records show only that the company was incorporated in 1996.
The CIA is known to erect false corporate fronts for its own private air force used to spirits terror suspects between countries for extra-legal “rendition.”
In this case, the more likely explanation is that the FBI is using the Delaware identity for its new generation of spy planes, equipped with sophisticated optics to watch people on the ground. In 2003, the Bureau admitted to flying a tricked-out 182 over several communities near Indianapolis to keep tabs on customers of internet cafes and copy shops. [Amazing!]
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