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

Otto agrees

Adding on to my recent post about LatAm media coverage, where I said:

“…Hugo and Evo are hugely popular in Latin America because they’re good for Latin America”

Apparently Otto agrees in his recent post about the Bolivian economy, saying:

“A once and future coca leaf grower runs countries better than teams of dumbasses in suits (you know them by the name ‘economists’) with multisquillon dollar eddycations…”

My only issue with that is that Otto narrowed it down to economists, instead of the more general rich old guys in suits. Whether it’s Alan Garcia or Jack Welch or Al Gore, be leary of rich old guys in suits who profess to know what’s good for average Joe. Far too often said rich old guys in suits have made big bucks robbing said average Joe blind.

Visit to La Paz, Bolivia

We made a trip to Bolivia last week to pick up my new Peruvian visa at the Peruvian consulate in La Paz. Archaic government rules mean that a visa typically grants permission to travel to a country, so in most cases you have to pick it up outside of the issuing country.

We took advantage of the opportunity to take a little vacation, stopping in La Paz, Copacabana (Bolivia) and Puno (Peru). La Paz is a fairly typical large Latin American city, located in a canyon made by the Rio Choqueyapu. The center of the city is at an elevation of over 3,600 meter (~12,000 feet) above sea level, but the outskirts of the city reach over 4,000 meter (13,000 feet) in El Alto. I’m not a huge fan of big cities, so I enjoyed Copacabana more than La Paz.

In Bolivia poverty is more visible and widespread than in Peru, and right now there is also civil unrest between the middle class and the poorer ethnic Indian population. La Paz is a stronghold of support for the ethnic Indian president Evo Morales, while the richer cities in Bolivia such as Santa Cruz are more opposed to him. Support for “Evo” is very visible in La Paz, on billboards, grafitti and public demonstrations.

– Ward Welvaert