Samaritan’s Purse is Billy Graham’s missionary and charity group. They have a global presence, including in West Africa. When two of their workers (Brently and Writebol) became sick with Ebola, they hired Phoenix Air to evacuate them.
At a small, single runway airport in Cartersville, Georgia, a tiny airline got an urgent — and unprecedented — call last week: to fly the only two Americans known to have contracted the Ebola virus from West Africa to the U.S. for treatment.
We do a lot of very unique programs that involve aviation for various federal agencies, this is simply one of many contracts that we hold,” Dan Thompson, a Phoenix Air spokesman told Mashable. “We do a lot of weird stuff.”
It’s no secret that Phoenix Air is involved with extraordinary renditions (torture) for the CIA. They’ve been identified by Amnesty International and Shannon Watch.
Surprisingly, Samaritan’s Purse is linked to another CIA rendition company. Aircraft N4042J was sold from Stevens Express Leasing to Samaritans Purse.
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.
How indeed. The NY Times notes:
But whoever created the companies used some of the same post office box addresses and the same apparently fictitious officers for two or more of the companies. One of those seeming ghost executives, Philip P. Quincannon, for instance, is listed as an officer of Premier Executive Transport Services and Crowell Aviation Technologies, both listed to the same Massachusetts address, as well as Stevens Express Leasing in Tennessee.
No one by that name can be found in any public record other than post office boxes in Washington and Dunn Loring, Va. Those listings for Mr. Quincannon, in commercial databases, include an anomaly: His Social Security number was issued in Washington between 1993 and 1995, but his birth year is listed as 1949.
But Samaritan’s Purse managed to find him.
FAA records for the aircraft can be seen here:
You’ll notice James Kershaw of Stevens Express Leasing has two very different signatures. One on page 9 and another on page 17.
Signing on behalf of Samaritan’s Purse was their Director of Aviation, Virgil Gottfried.
Virgil Gottfried was tied to yet another CIA-linked drug trafficking plane, tail number N391SA.
His signature also appears on the FAA records for two other planes with suspicious ownership histories.
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.
Sky Way Aircraft will be familiar to anyone who follows CIA-linked drug trafficking.
Foreign law enforcement authorities confiscated two of these cocaine planes – one in the Dominican Republic and one in Nicaragua, (tail numbers N1100M and N391SA, respectively) – on suspicion of cocaine trafficking. A third plane (tail number N12DT) is cited along with N1100M in a pending FBI money laundering case involving a Venezuelan-based drug-trafficking organization.
The fourth aircraft, a Gulfstream II jet (tail number N987SA), crashed in Mexico in late September last year with a payload of some four tons of cocaine onboard.
The companies at the center of this parade of cocaine planes are Skyway Aircraft Inc. of St. Petersburg, Fla., and Planes and Parts Enterprises LLC of Doral, Fla.
In addition, a third Florida company, also named Skyway Aircraft Inc., but based in Clearwater, Fla. (just north of St Petersburg in the greater Tampa area), is linked to a fifth cocaine plane, a DC-9 jet (tail number N900SA), which was apprehended by Mexican authorities in April 2006 with some 5.5 tons of white powder onboard. The DC-9 had been sold to an unknown Venezuelan buyer only days before it was busted in Mexico.
Two of these cocaine planes – the Gulfstream II and a Beech 200 (N391SA) found in Nicaragua with the false tail number N168D – have been tied to the CIA’s terrorist rendition program via their Federal Aviation Administration-issued tail numbers, according to European investigators.
Sky Way painted their planes to look like they were from the Department of Homeland Security.
You can read about the other Sky Way Aircraft, N900SA and N987SA, here:
His name is Glen Kovar. He was Chairman of SkyWay Communications in St Petersburg, Florida. In a profile, a business magazine touched on his resume:
“The senior Kovar worked for five U.S. presidents under the nebulous title of “director of special projects for the U.S. Forest Service.” Pressed for a more precise job description, he said: “I did a number of special projects. Let’s just leave it at that.”
Finally there’s the registration number N146SP. This tail number was on a South Pacific Island Airways Jet, which was then registered as Southern Air Transport jet N527SJ.
Southern Air Transport (SAT) (1947-1998), based in Miami, Florida, was a cargo airline best known as a front company for the Central Intelligence Agency (1960-1973) and for its role in the Iran-Contra affair in the mid-1980s. Southern Air carried four loads of US weapons bound for Iran from the US to Israel, and on the return flights carried weapons destined for the Nicaraguan Contras from Portugal. The shooting down of an SAT flight in Nicaragua in October 1986 helped expose Iran-Contra.
Of course, the part of Iran-Contra that usually gets glossed over is the fact that it was also a massive, government-sanctioned drug running operation. Is it also a coincidence that yet another CIA tail number is on a Samaritan’s Purse helicopter, seen here in Liberia?
Between Phoenix Air, Stevens Express Leasing, Sky Way Aircraft, and Southern Air Transport, it sure seems that CIA planes have a way of landing at Samaritan’s Purse.
(Continued in part two)