White House version of mid-air exchange disputed
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - British Airways says that none of its pilots made contact with President George W. Bush's plane during its secret flight to Baghdad, contradicting White House reports of a mid-air exchange that nearly prompted Bush to call off his trip.
Honor Verrier, a spokeswoman for British Airways in North America, said on Monday two BA aircraft were in the area at the time and neither radioed the president's plane to ask if it was Air Force One.
"We have spoken to the British Airways captains who were in the area at the time and neither made comments to Air Force One nor did they hear any other aircraft make the statement over the radio," Verrier said in response to a question from Reuters.
The White House had no immediate comment on the discrepancy.
Bush aides recounted with excitement last week the moment during the flight to Baghdad when they said a BA pilot thought he spotted the president's blue and white Boeing 747 from his cockpit.
"Did I just see Air Force One?" the pilot radioed, according to the White House.
There was a pause. Then came the response from Air Force One: "Gulfstream 5" -- a much smaller aircraft.
As one of Bush's aides recounted, the BA pilot seemed to sense that he was in on a secret, and replied: "Oh."