FBI Is Selling Its Only High-Altitude Surveillance Aircraft

The plane has been used in multiple high profile raids and, allegedly, even during the Black Lives Matter protests
Ameya Paleja
The FBI Cessna is now up for saleGeneral Services Administration

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has listed its Cessna Citation Jet on the General Services Administration (GSA) website for sale. Interested buyers have ten days to bid for the aircraft that is being sold with the WESCAM MX20HD Sensor Forward Looking Infrared camera, as per the GSA listing. While there is no reserve price for the aircraft, there is a $100,000 deposit needed, before you place a bid for the plane. 

The 2003 model of the Cessna Citation 560 jet carries the Tail No. 557PG and is powered by Pratt and Whitney 535A engines. The Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS) is Honeywell's Primus 1000 and features a Garmin GTN-750 650 touchscreen navigator. 

As per the aircraft information report, the owner is listed as AWS Air, LLC with an address in Manassas, Virginia. However, queries and requests for inspections are being directed to Earl Mcewen, with an FBI.gov email.  

As per investigations done by BuzzFeed News in 2020, the craft has seen action during high-profile raids in 2018 and 2019, where multi-agency efforts led to the arrest of gangs involved in drug trafficking, firearms trade, and money laundering in North California, Puerto Rico, and Alabama. 

Buzzfeed also reported that the plane circled Baltimore in 2015 after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody and may have also been involved in monitoring the Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, DC, last June. 

The FBI reportedly has more than 120 surveillance aircraft registered with fictitious company names, most of them are propeller-driven craft that typically flies at about 5,000 feet (1,524 m), The Cessna is its only jet-powered aircraft and can fly at 15,000 feet (4,572 m) making it harder to spot from the ground. 

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The WESCAM MX20HD Sensor Forward Looking Infrared camera that the aircraft is being sold with is a multi-sensor and multi-spectral system. As per the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), the system is a controlled item, and therefore, the sale of the aircraft is likely to involve the State Department, before it can be sold outside the US. 

It is not clear what is prompting the FBI to sell this aircraft and why is it being sold with a surveillance system on board. We have reached out to the FBI for their comments and shall update the story when a reply is received. 

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