Tepper Aviation

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Tepper Aviation
Tepper Aviation logo.png
Ceased operations2006[1]
HubsBob Sikes Airport
HeadquartersCrestview, Florida, USA

Tepper Aviation, Inc. was a privately held aviation company operating a fleet of Lockheed L-100 Hercules aircraft and was one of the largest civilian operators of L-100/L-382 aircraft.[2] The airline may have suspended operations in 2006.[1] On October 11, 2016 Tepper filed papers changing its name to Gulf Air Group, effective in 2017.[3] In 2019, Gulf Air Group opened the Covington Maintenance Center at Southern Alabama Regional Airport in Andalusia, Alabama.[4][5]

Tepper was based at the Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview, Florida. The company had a long association with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).[6][7] In the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was widely reported to be flying weapons into Angola to arm the UNITA rebels.[8] In 2005, the Council of Europe said it was investigating allegations that the CIA was using the company's aircraft for extraordinary rendition transporting suspected terrorists through Europe.[9]

Alleged CIA affiliation[edit]

A Tepper Aviation Lockheed L-100-30 taking off from Mojave Spaceport, California

In early 1989, the UK Independent reported Tepper's involvement in Angola:

The CIA has appointed a new airline to ferry weaponry to the US and South African-backed Unita guerrillas fighting the Marxist government in Angola. The CIA's previous airline for this task was forced to close after media revelations. Tepper Aviation, based in Crestview, Florida, operates a Hercules freighter aircraft which, according to former employees, has flown between the Kamina air base in southern Zaire and Unita-held territory in eastern Angola. Tepper was set up in late 1980, after the demise of the CIA's previous carrier, St. Lucia Airways, whose activities, in addition to the Angolan work, included the transport of Colonel North and weapons to Iran... Bud Petty, who heads Tepper, categorically denies that the Hercules has been in Zaire or Angola.[8]

Petty died months later in the crash of Hercules aircraft N9205T[10] in Angola, as reported by Flight International:

The Lockheed L-100 Hercules which crashed while on a US Central Intelligence Agency mission in Angola late last month was owned and operated by Tepper Aviation, a Florida-based company with a history of involvement with CIA operations. Bud Petty, the head of Tepper Aviation, was piloting the aircraft and was killed in the crash along with, at least two West Germans, a Briton and a second American. The aircraft, painted grey and known as the 'Grey Ghost', came down at night on 27 November as it was coming in to land at Jamba, the main base of the UNITA guerrillas fighting Angola's Marxist Government. The aircraft was carrying a cargo of weapons, plus several guerrillas, as well as the Europeans and Americans.[11]

According to The Book of Honor by Ted Gup, Petty was the head of Tepper at the time:[7]

The lumbering cargo plane that would take him into Angola was to be one of the 'Gray Ghosts,' so named for their slate-colored paint. The plane had four seats in the front -- for a pilot, copilot, navigator, and loadmaster. The fuselage was largely open for cargo. On board that night was a seasoned crew of six. Even by Agency standards, it had a distinctly international flavor. Heading the team was Pharies 'Bud' Petty, a veteran Agency pilot who, at least on paper, presided over a Florida firm called Tepper Aviation, located in Crestview, just off Eglin Air Force Base. The other crew members were all ostensibly employees of Tepper.

Gup's book identifies Gracie T. Petty as Petty's widow.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Tepper Aviation". Airline History. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  2. ^ http://www.tepperaviation.com/about-us/
  3. ^ https://search.sunbiz.org/Inquiry/CorporationSearch/ConvertTiffToPDF?storagePath=COR%5C2016%5C1014%5C90935132.Tif&documentNumber=J81428
  4. ^ "Gulf Air Group coming to airport twin hangars". 7 August 2019.
  5. ^ "Gulf Air Group opening Covington Maintenance Center at SARA | Latest News | News".
  6. ^ Grey, Stephen, "Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program", St. Martin's Press, New York, 1st ed., October 2006, Library of Congress card number 2006048347, ISBN 0-312-36023-1, page 108.
  7. ^ a b c Ted Gup (18 December 2007). The Book of Honor: The Secret Lives and Deaths of CIA Operatives. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. pp. 333–. ISBN 978-0-307-42819-6.
  8. ^ a b Alan George, "Airline 'carrying CIA guns to Unita'", The Independent (UK), February 18, 1989.
  9. ^ "European rights watchdog probes CIA prisoner flights", ABC News (Australia), November 24, 2005
  10. ^ Accident description for N9205T, Aviation Safety Network. Undated, accessed May 18, 2006.
  11. ^ "Angolan CIA Hercules air crash kills Tepper Aviation chief", Flight International, December 13, 1989.

Further reading[edit]