It’s impossible to talk about this mysterious Cessna over the skies of America’s cities without sounding like a soldier in the tinfoil-hat brigade — it’s a subject that tends to attract an “interesting” (in a Minnesota way) crowd. But the mystery does defy a logical explanation.
The plane has been circling locations in the Twin Cities often late at night.
But yesterday it circled Brooklyn Park in the afternoon, its route certainly distinguishes it from a flight for fun.
The Star Tribune suggests the planes are outfitted with surveillance gear, but the FBI won’t comment.
“The fact is there are several very powerful surveillance technologies that are deployed by fixed-wing aircraft circling over cities,” Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the ACLU, tells the Star Tribune. “These are powerful surveillance technologies that we think the public ought to have a role in discussing and debating.”
The newspaper says the airplanes have been “flying low,” over the cities, but the Flight24 data shows they’ve actually been flying quite high — over 6,000 feet above sea level — over the cities. That’s significant because it puts it in the protected airspace — known as Class B — surrounding the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. No planes are allowed in the airspace without permission.
The plane is one of several owned by a Virginia firm, at an airport where many other planes are registered to firms with similar acronym-filled names.
Curiously, nobody seems to have photographed the plane, which last Friday circled downtown and Powderhorn Park at rush hour.
Its route was so precise that it suggests the plane may have been on autopilot.
But when the plane was circling the area south of Boston after the Boston Marathon bombing, someone got this picture of it, showing a piece of equipment mounted on it that isn’t standard for a Cessna Skylane.
In an accompanying discussion, members of a forum discussing the plane linked it to the Bridgewater Triangle, an area of southeast Massachusetts which Wikipedia says is “claimed to be a site of alleged paranormal phenomena, ranging from UFOs to poltergeists and orbs, balls of fire and other spectral phenomena, various ‘bigfoot’ sightings, giant snakes and ‘thunderbirds’, as well as the mutilation of cattle and other livestock.”
Well, then. What are you hiding, Brooklyn Center?
The Boston Globe said the FAA confirmed the plane was a “sanctioned” flight but wouldn’t say any more, which certainly suggests it was operated at the behest of the U.S. government.
Residents there were upset at the noise the plane was making. One resident said he’d feel better if officials would just confirm it was being flown by the government.
In its statement to the Star Tribune, the FBI said the flights “were not there to monitor lawfully protected first amendment activity, and any FBI aviation support to a local law enforcement agency must receive high-level approvals.”
Though it would’ve been in the airspace for the big airport, no communication with the the plane appears on the archived recordings for Minneapolis “Approach” FAA frequency during the time it patrolled the skies over Minneapolis.
Perhaps, that’s not surprising. A few weeks ago I was at a seminar with officials from the FAA locally in which the speaker, a manager of the facility based in Farmington, talked about what happens when President Obama visits the area.
He said he sits next to an official from the Secret Service when Air Force One enters the airspace, suggesting the existence of an air monitoring system apart from the FAA. “And he gets things (on his radar) long before I do,” he said.