It is a circumstance unparalleled in American history.
Two weeks after a gunman started pouring down fire from a 32nd floor window in Las Vegas on people at a country music festival, police and the FBI remain in the dark over why he did it—and why he stopped.
The motivation of the shooter (or shooters’) remains a mystery. Hopefully it was more than petulance.
But we don’t know.
In the absence of any sort of coherent narrative, both concerned citizens and ‘conspiracy theorists’—and good luck telling them apart—are attempting to augment the official FBI investigation, such as it is, by crowd-sourcing clues with friends on the internet.
Admittedly, it isn’t much. But, at the moment, it’s all we’ve got.
The disclosure that the Vegas shooter was a pilot who had owned multiple airplanes raised red flags with many observers. Coupled with the revelation that Paddock’s last proven employment had been some thirty years ago — and with a major U.S. defense contractor to boot—well, eyebrows were raised. Even in today’s tawdry times, there are limits.
A brief summary of the steps needed to trace previous owners of suspect aircraft ‘might could’ prove useful to the boys skulking behind baggage trains with their eyes peeled.
A sort of “How to Spot and Track CIA planes for Dummies.’ Abridged, with pictures and video, for modern attention spans that can be measured only with a finely-calibrated stopwatch.
The field of general aviation has been deliberately designed by the FAA to make little sense. It’s a slog through mist and rising fog across a swamp bigger than Florida.
But it’s the fundamental course that must be assimilated by anyone with the ambition to get anywhere near good at spotting CIA planes.
Start with a two-week old headline: “Las Vegas Shooter Was A Pilot, Aircraft Owner.”
The report states that Stephen Paddock, going back to at least 2003, had been a private pilot with an instrument rating. It went on:
“Multiple Twitter users are indicating that he owned at least two airplanes over the past several years.”
Rampant speculation ensued, leading to a run on creative interpretation on the internet. The FAA’s murky world of general aviation got lit up with klieg lights. It’s receiving intense scrutiny from everyone who wants to be the first to spot Paddock’s handlers. Everyone looking for a clump of people. trying to identify a ‘group.’ Call them what you will. Me, I’m dubbing them “Paddock’s People.”
So who knows? Maybe I can shed a little light. Stranger things happen all the time.
General aviation includes both scheduled air charters and non-scheduled air transport operations, from gliders to powered parachutes to luxury jets. The ‘non-scheduled’ part of the industry, by far the most interesting, is peopled by everyone from Mobsters to covert operators from the CIA. All of them learned long ago that the best way to be shady is in a plane.
Not, however, in a commercial, plane. Spooks don’t fly Southwest.
Gulfstreams and Learjets are the preferred ride of choice.
After the advent of “extraordinary renditions” in the early 2000’s, the phenomenon of “planespotting” came along hard behind. “Plane-spotters” began feverishly jotting down the “N numbers” of ‘planes of interest’ taking off and landing at select airports around the world.
Planespotters quickly grew adept at unmasking the true owners of the planes they traced. They traced the ‘N’ numbers of a surprising number of suspicious planes back to U.S. intelligence, and exposed CIA aviation assets that needed to be exposed for ferrying passengers between the CIA’s far-flung torture centers for a fee.
Planespotting was an important step for Americans wanting to know what their government gets up to on the average day. It did not, however, inspire universal glee.
The Cirrus SR20 is a popular low-wing five-seat composite plane, best known for including an airframe parachute that can float the plane and its passengers down for a controlled landing on the ground as part of its safety pitch. Only introduced in 1999, Cirrus Design was soon selling more four-seat piston-powered airplanes than anyone but Cessna.
This isn’t easy, but it must be said: Professional conservative Ann Coulter deserves credit for being the first to deride explanations describing Stephen Paddock as a successful full-time gambler, which she found too ludicrous for words. On that we agree, probably for the first and last time. She’s onto something. It’s as if the New York Times never heard of using casinos for money laundering.
“Sure looks like he was laundering money. It is statistically impossible to be a consistent net winner at video poker. Like every game in Vegas, the odds are fixed for the house. If someone knows how you can beat the house at video poker, let us in on it. “
What that “something” is remains unknown. Or at least, it remains unknown to me.
Investigating previous (and subsequent) owners of single and twin-engine planes and luxury jets is an excellent tool for uncovering circles of associates and acquaintances surrounding an airplane owner of interest.
Until one looks a little closer, Stephen Paddock seems like an ‘ordinary’ guy from Florida who inexplicably went nuts one day. That is, until you saw his arsenal, and wonder if he’d ever seen similar arsenals in other places. Owning multiple airplanes isn’t sinister. But it is just slightly out of the ordinary. Ditto the oodles of still-unexplained cash. Add to that a resume leaning heavily towards federal government work. After working between 1985 and 1988 as an auditor at defense contractor Morton Thiokol— the O-rings that failed on the Space Shuttle Challenger—he apparently never held another real job.
Other than a few forays into rental real estate, little is known about how Paddock got rich, or spent his time.
The CIA loves general aviation because, worldwide, it’s the crucial component to successful covert operations, which often involve surreptitiously inserting or extracting someone or something— people, money, passports, guns, diamonds, drugs—into and out of friendly or unfriendly countries without being detected. General aviation is a lot like the old Wild West. It’s also a lot like Wall Street.
Because of the market’s importance to the well-being of untold millions in the U.S. and countless billions worldwide, most people would have guessed, before the 2008 depression, that the Treasury Dept’s Security and Exchange Commission, the SEC, rules the securities markets like a line judge looking for a return man’s foot stepping out of bounds on a 110-yard return.
They don’t. The world financial crisis of 2008, from which no one has fully recovered, proves it.
Guess what? The FAA is worse.
Many recall questions arising over how Wall Street got away with stripping $2 trillion from the American economy in 2008. The correct answer is they were set up to do exactly what they did.
When it was learned that Paddock bought a 2-year-old Cirrus SR20 (N5343M) in 2006, the push was on to discover more about the plane.
Paddock had his Cirrus for almost four years. He sold it in 2010.
And this is the point where things go slightly off the rails.
As promised, here’s the skinny about why some became confused over the FAA’s strange and arcane way of identifying aircraft.
Here’s what I know:
There is no airplane carrying the ‘N’ number which identified Paddock’s Cirrus, no N5343M today. However there is a plane that used to be N5343M. that has left citizens and “conspiracy theorists” alike scratching their heads.
It carried the same ‘N’ number as Paddock’s plane. But it is not be the same plane. Paddock owned a Cirrus SR20. This plane is a Cessna 150.
The planes come from two different manufacturers. They share nothing but the ability to fly.
They had just one thing in common: the confusing fact that they at one time had been assigned the same ‘N’ number.
That’s not their fault, but that of the FAA, the lousiest, lamest and most corrupt Agency in the history of government in the known Universe.
The Cessna has since been deregistered. Who knows? Maybe it was sold for spare parts at some mobbed-up Indian airline’s chop shop outside Mumbai.
The Cirrus that used to be Stephen Paddock’s is still flying. It is currently registered to aDr John Rogers in Roanoke Virginia. We can rest assured that Dr. Roger’s Cirrus and Stephen Paddock’s Cirrus are indeed the same plane, because both planes have the same serial number, 1402.
But there’s something else that’s more confusing yet. After buying what used to be Stephen Paddock’s plane (one unrelated owner came between them) Dr. John Rogers had the temerity to change the ‘N’ number on his new plane.
It went from being N5343M to N145AW. in the blink of an eye.
They can do that in general aviation. It’s one big goddamn masked ball.
The FAA can create doubt about the provenance of any American-registered airplane that catches their eye.
So here’s one last detail for just the right funhouse mirror effect: The Cirrus bought by Dr. John Rogers is not the only American-registered airplane out there today carrying ‘N’ number N145AW.
An airliner, a Boeing 737 which flies for America West, is also registered with the FAA using the same ‘N’ number.
Don’t look at me.
Last week’s hot conspiracy theory was that Stephen Paddock somehow transferred his plane to a U.S. defense firm in Virginia that nobody had ever heard about, so it must be super-secret. If true, it would have been a revealing, and maybe even a suspicious move, and it would make a good story.
But it never happened.
It’s an unfortunate coincidence, certainly for Rogers, that he uses the corporate name, “Volant,” which in a variant is also used by an obscure U.S. defense contractor in Virginia. There are two different “Volants” in Virginia. Who knows, maybe even more. They’re not the same company. Dr John Rogers presumably knows little about defense contracting because he’s an oncologist. He’s fighting cancer. It’s a career that doesn’t encourage a lot of moonlighting.
Virginia incorporation documents show Dr John Rogers’ Volant LLC shares the same address in Roanoke Virginia that Dr Roger himself uses. That’s because he lives there. It’s his home address. And Dr. Roger’s airplane, the Cirrus SR 20 that used to belong to presumed mass murderer Stephen Paddock is registered to this address as well, which is being redacted here, because the good doctor has probably already suffered the indignity of having bought an airplane from a man who just murdered 59 innocent people for no discernible reason.
One irate 4Chan-ready soul wrote:
“Volant is nothing but a Department of Defense contractor. Meaning Paddock’s plane has been in the hands of the United States government for the past three years!”
Since then urgent posters on the internet have been frantically waving their arms through the air like kids making angel wings in the year’s first snow.
Probably it felt good for irate 4Chan guy to get things off his chest. After all, assuming a plane’s ‘N’ number follows it around like a lifetime shadow is a logical assumption.
It’s an honest mistake, and not half as bad as the poses of studied indifference being struck by America’s top journos, especially in lieu of real investigation into Stephen Paddock’s patchwork past.
America’s celebrity journalists seem faintly embarrassed at the lack of any motive even being offered for public consumption.
They should be, which is why they seem desperately eager to “move on.”
But the Las Vegas massacre hurt. It won’t go away quickly.
“The nation’s press is a gang of cruel opportunists, fuckoffs and misfits,” said Hunter Thompson, or something very nearly like. “Journalism is a false doorway into the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole just deep enough for a wino to comfortably curl up and masturbate in, like a chimp at the zoo.”
Let’s make two things perfectly clear. Stephen Paddock’s real motive for mass murder is well-known in certain quarters, is maybe even an open secret. Those he intended to touch with his action took note.
Also, our vaunted Western free press may be a mile wide. But its only an inch deep.
Our IP Address: