James Kovalesky (alias James Richard Fairing)

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One of the three alleged El-Masri rendition pilots, photographed by Germany's ARD Television during an attempt to interview him.[1] He appears most likely to be Kovalesky, given his age and the fact that his description matches that given in Der Spiegel's account of the attempted interview.[2]

James Kovalesky (alias James Richard Fairing) is an alleged CIA pilot. Under his CIA alias of James Richard Fairing, Kovalesky is wanted in Germany on charges of kidnapping and causing serious bodily harm to Khalid El-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent.[3]

The offences are alleged to have been committed as part of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program. According to German magazine Der Spiegel, "El-Masri says he was wrongly abducted on New Year's Eve 2003 in Macedonia and detained in various secret overseas prisons often referred to as 'black sites.' His five month ordeal finally ended when he was dumped on an abandoned road in Albania."[4]

Finding Captain Fairing

In June 2007, Der Spiegel identified James Fairing as "James K":

"Munich district attorneys knew the captain of the Boeing 737 which carried Khaled el-Masri to Afghanistan after a stopover in Palma de Mallorca had the fictional name of "Fairing." Discovering his real identity became a matter of simple detective work. All a researcher had to do was enter the name "Fairing," along with other details -- such as his licenses to fly certain aircraft models, or special personal characteristics -- into the FAA database. The system soon produced the pilot's real name."
"That was how the German investigators discovered that Captain James Fairing's real name is James K. And because K., 53, called his wife in North Carolina from a hotel in Mallorca, the investigators managed to track down his address. The captain lives in Johnston County, in a nice single-family home with a huge patio and garden."[2]

The first public identification of Fairing as being James Kovalesky appears to have been by the German association of investigative reporters, netzwerk recherche, in the proceedings of its 2007 annual conference. According to its statement of principles, the association includes reporters from well-known publications such as Der Spiegel, Die Ziet, and Süddeutsche Zeitung.[5] A report in the proceedings describes how Stephen Grey (well known for his work on extraordinary rendition) and John Goetz used the FAA database, a process of elimination, and tip-offs to identify Kovalesky (machine translation by AltaVista):

"James Richard Fairing thus. Only one of the names in the net, which sketched Grey with the collected information in a program window of its computer. With Fairings registration with the FAA was missing the address. A further reference that it had to concern a pseudonym. But: Who was behind Fairing? Goetz and Grey scanned the data base, loaded large packets on the computer of a woman employee, arranged Excel tables again, according to pilots about, who are registered in North Carolina, because the company sits there, which accomplishes the flights for the CIA to Afghanistan. Continued to sort the names according to types of aircraft, because the CIA flights with unusual airplanes took place. Planespotter played a role, the registrations of airplanes with this realization photograph and always on the hunt are after unusual motives. There were informants. Many probably, which gave Tipps like these: The genuine first names were often maintained with the pseudonyms of the CIA coworkers, the numbers during date of birth or entrance investigation were rotated. Goetz and Grey compared the details of the pilots registered in the FAA data base, encountered agreements again and again. Only rarely as with James the Richard Fairing and James Kovalesky might have been as numerous. Hit."[6]

The identification of Kovalesky as being the "James K" of Der Spiegel's report is further strengthened by his educational background. Der Spiegel reported that "A look at another database reveals that he drives a Toyota and has a college degree in biology."[2] According to the University of Maryland's website, a James Kovalesky graduated with a B.S. in Microbiology in 1976.[7]

FAA records

A search of FAA records for James Kovalesky and James Richard Fairing shows that the two pilots have identical medical results, identical ratings and identical type ratings. Both pilots are also certified as mechanics, again with identical medical results and identical ratings.[8][9]

Private aviation

Kovalesky is the registered owner of N611C, a Cessna light aircraft.[10]

In late September 2007, N611C was flown from Johnston County airport, where Kovalesky's employer Aero Contractors is based, to Bob Sikes Airport in Florida. The plane spent two days at Bob Sikes airport before being flown home. It made brief stop-offs at Middle Georgia Regional Airport (KMCN) on both the outward and return journeys. Bob Sikes Airport is notable for being the home airport of Tepper Aviation, Inc., a longstanding CIA proprietary airline which has itself been linked to extraordinary rendition.[11]

Articles and resources


  1. "CIA-Affäre (CIA Affair)", ARD Television website. Undated, accessed August 24, 2007. Machine translation by Google.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "CIA Arrest Warrants Strain US-German Ties", Der Spiegel (English edition), June 25, 2007.
  3. Bob Drogin and John Goetz, "'Ghost pilots' of the CIA's rendition team: The Times traces the identities of three facing kidnapping charges in Germany related to a 2003 operation", Los Angeles Times, February 18, 2007. Subscription req'd. Subscription-free copy here.
  4. "Suspected CIA Kidnappers Identified", Der Spiegel, September 21, 2006.
  5. German investigative journalists have founded their first network, netzwerkrecherche.de. Undated, accessed July 19, 2007.
  6. Christina Stefanescu, "Wie enttarnt man einen CIA-Kidnapper? (How does one unmask a CIA kidnapper?)" (PDF), Zusammenfassungen zur nr-Jahreskonferenz 2007 (Summaries to the NR yearly conference 2007), page 22, netzwerkrecherche.de, 2007.
  7. News and Events, Life Sciences Department, University of Maryland, February 2005.
  8. FAA certificate 1 (screengrab) and certificate 2 (screengrab) for James Richard Fairing. Registration req'd. Undated, accessed July 19, 2007.
  9. FAA certificate 1 (screengrab) and certificate 2 (screengrab) for James Kovalesky. Registration req'd. Undated, accessed July 19, 2007.
  10. FAA records for N611C. Undated, accessed July 19, 2007.
  11. Tracking data for N611C, flightaware.com. Registration req'd to view historical data.. Undated, accessed October 5, 2007. (PDF copy of flightaware data for N611C for 20-22 September, 2007)

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