Thursday, December 04, 2003

More Nonsense


Q Scott, you promised us more information about the Air Force One sighting. Was it a British Airways plane?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I'm actually -- I'm going to give you a copy of a release that was put out by the National Air Traffic Services, which is the London-area control center. Let me just read that to you first, and then I'll be glad to get into any follow-up you have.

"NATS has now concluded its investigations and can confirm that a conversation between the crew of an aircraft belonging to a non-U.K. operator and its control center took place around 9:30 GMT, on Thursday, the 27th of November, 2003.

"The pilot of the aircraft asked whether the aircraft behind it was Air Force One. After consulting the flight plan of those aircraft in the sector at that time, the center responded that the aircraft was a Gulfstream V. NATS notes reports that U.S. officials have said that for security reasons, Air Force One had filed a flight plan which stated that the service would operated by a Gulfstream V."

So as they pointed out, it was a non-U.K. operator. What Colonel Tillman and the pilots on board Air Force One believed at the time when they heard the conversation was that it was a British Airways plane, because there had been a British Airways plane that had been in the vicinity of Air Force One on the way across. And Colonel Tillman -- and, in fact, they knew it was there because they had been using the call sign that British Airways uses when they communicate with the control center. Colonel Tillman and the pilots then heard the conversation, and to them the conversation sounded like it was coming from a pilot with a British accent. And so that's why they had concluded that it was a British Airways plane.

Q Scott, the conversation itself was as it was relayed?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct. I think that that was in here. Go ahead, Norah.

Q Why then did the White House, repeatedly, in two different versions, tell reporters that it was British Airways? How could the White House be so wrong?

MR. McCLELLAN: For the reasons I told you. Colonel Tillman and the pilots in the cockpit believed that it was British Airways for the reasons I just stated. And what we always try to do for you all in the press corps is to provide you a little color of important events, because we believe that's helpful to you for your stories, and to do your reporting to the American people. And so we reported it based on what we knew, and the conversation did take place. It was heard by the pilots on Air Force One. That was relayed to White House staff, and it was shared with you all in the media to help you keep the American people informed about what was a very important event.

mmm... I don't see this release at their website...