Three possibilities regarding the Evo airplane (call sign FAB-001 for Fuerza Aerea Boliviano 001) turnaround yesterday:
1) The White House interns are so naive they really believed Edward Snowden was onboard FAB-001 and pulled some strings to force the airplane to land in Wien, where they’d catch him in Hollywood fashion. (my odds: 15%)
2) Putin set the US up, led them to believe Snowden was onboard Evo’s airplane. Putin enjoyed the embarrassment of his US/European “friends”. (my odds: 30%)
3) The whole thing was an elaborate hoax: somebody wanted to give Evo the high ground and good excuse to grant asylum to Edward Snowden, thereby making the whole headache go away for everybody. (my odds: 30%)
For bonus points: how long before we see pictures of Obama/Hollande/Putin hanging out together at one of Berlusconi’s bunga-bunga parties saying “Edward who?”
I know, my odds don’t add up to 100%. Here’s why: the cockpit audio of FAB-001 landing in Wien seems to indicate the pilots are landing because they have trouble with the fuel quantity (or fuel flow) indication. It’s only 2 minutes of audio prior to landing so we don’t know what the conversations with previous controllers were like. A reasonable guess could be that they were never planning to stop in France but asked to land there due this fuel indication problem. Somebody thought the pilot’s request was suspicious and denied permission to land in France perhaps? But the airplane was over Austria heading for Italy, so the French angle is odd.
The pilot’s reference to the fuel indication problem doesn’t necessarily contradict the Bolivian narrative that the airplane was denied permission to enter somebody’s airspace. It’s possible, for example, that while enroute the pilots were denied clearance at some point to continue along their flight planned route (over France, presumably) and were punching new/alternate routes in their FMS (flight management system). Due to the complexity of the European routing requirements this could have taken them far enough off course that the FMS was giving them “low fuel” calculations for their intended point of landing (I believe they were making a refueling stop in the Canary Islands). If you’re going 500 miles an hour over unfamiliar areas (assuming the Bolivian Air Force pilots don’t holiday in the south of France every year) with the Prez of your country in the back, you’d prefer not to have any confusion about your fuel status and land somewhere.
Maybe there was nothing to it after all, just a media story with no more legs than a pilot making a precautionary landing.
A few pictures from our trip to La Paz, now many moons ago: