13 December 2003

A Baghdad Thanksgiving's Lingering Aftertaste

Of more concern, air traffic controllers in Britain are seething over the flight, in which the president's 747, falsely identified as a Gulfstream, traveled through British airspace. Prospect, the controllers union in the United Kingdom, says the flight broke international regulations, posed a potential safety threat and exposed a weakness in the air defense system that could be exploited by terrorists.

'The overriding concern is if the president's men who did this can dupe air traffic control, what's to stop a highly organized terrorist group from duping air traffic control?' asked David Luxton, Prospect's national secretary. Luxton said the flight was in 'breach' of regulations against filing false flight plans set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, which he said should apply to a military aircraft using civilian airspace.

Luxton said that by identifying itself as a Gulfstream V instead of the much larger 747, Air Force One could have put itself and other airplanes in danger. The Gulfstream can climb faster and maneuver more nimbly than a 747, which means controllers could have assumed the president's plane was capable of a collision-avoiding maneuver that it couldn't actually do. And the 'wake vortex' of a 747, much larger than a Gulfstream's, could jeopardize smaller planes that were told by unsuspecting controllers to follow in the mislabeled plane's wake.

Let's see. The turkey was fake. The flight plan was fake. The BA encounter was fake. The spontaneous cheering by pre-selected and pre-warned troops was fake. Meanwhile air security was imperiled and non-selected US troops missed out on any turkey at all. Doesn't the generosity of George Bush just warm the cockles of your heart?

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