FAB-001 Evo Airplane Turnaround

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:

La Paz Bolivia

In La Paz, back when there were two 🙂

ice cream in La Paz Bolivia

At the elevation of La Paz, nothing better than yummie ice cream when the sun is out.

bolivian food

Typical Bolivian food

La Paz

One of the main government buildings in La Paz, Bolivia

Having..em dinner in Copacabana, Bolivia

Having..em dinner in Copacabana, Bolivia

"Evo SI" Billboard in La Paz

“Evo SI” Billboard in La Paz

Travel to USA on invalid / altered passport.

Note to NSA and other security types: Sorry if you don’t like this innocent yet true story, don’t kill the messenger. Draw your own conclusions, I’m sure most will just take this story to reinforce their own belief systems.

* * *

All the news about Edward Snowden being stuck in Moscow, supposedly because he doesn’t have valid travel papers, reminded me of a young lady I know who traveled from Peru to the USA on an invalid / altered passport.


It was all innocent. It happened a few years ago but post 9/11, when you’d think it wouldn’t be so easy. This young lady flew from Lima to the US and back twice, went through all the preliminary passport checks before she boarded and then the “real” checks after landing. She had a valid US visa and never overstayed it, her passport is another story.

So what happened? What’s the big deal?

Sometime after said travels I happened to look at this young lady’s passport and about fell over at what I saw. I can’t be seeing this! You know how today’s passports have the picture printed / embedded on the page, not stapled or glued on it like 30 years ago? Like any good girl, this young lady didn’t like her passport picture, so with a little dab of scotch tape she’d taped a cuter picture over the original. When I first saw the taped picture I asked her if she had traveled with her passport like that and she proudly responded “Of course, I wouldn’t show that other ugly picture to anybody!”

No harm done, it was her passport, her picture, just a cuter one. But nobody checked the “real” picture on her passport, she could have been carrying anybody’s stolen passport with her own picture taped over. I’m sure the security types will tell you that’s not possible, that we have biometrics now and all that good jazz – but they also tell you they don’t spy on their own citizens. WTF? Roger Clemens lies to US Congress about getting his ass shot full of go-juice before a game and he goes to trial? Shouldn’t James Clapper go to trial?

Blind faith in the established way obscures what a shallow dog and pony show it sometimes is.