I watched ABC TV’s lead news story last night re John Howard’s in-flight “emergency” in Southern Iraq — watch the video here — and have reached the conclusion that the story may have been something of a contrived beat-up.

As the narrative tells it, the plane filled with smoke and was diverted to an emergency landing. We are then treated to footage of the Prime Minister running from the plane accompanied by bodyguards, amidst apparent alarm and looks of deep concern etc.

But it’s all humbug, as careful examination of the footage shows:

  • One cameraman got out of the aircraft before the PM, in sufficient time to capture him exiting the aircraft. Another cameraman was inside the aircraft, near the rear ramp, and panned with the PM’s party as they ran from the aircraft. However, cut to the second camera as the PM exits the plane, and the first cameraman inside the plane is nowhere to be seen. Very strange – or were there several takes of this?
  • Camera on ground pans with PM and bodyguard as they run past, and we then see numerous passengers calmly walking away from the aircraft with their baggage –so they must have exited the aircraft well ahead of the PM and escort. Which, given the apparent emergency, is unlikely.
  • If you look at the aircraft’s engines in the background, the propellers have almost come to a halt when the PM and bodyguard emerge running down the ramp. As anyone familiar with C-130 aircraft will know, it takes well over a minute from the time that the pilot cuts the engines until the propellers actually stop. So the aircraft was stopped on the ground for some time, and had initiated normal engine shutdown, well before the PM was bundled off.
  • Add to that the fact that only the PM and escort are running – everybody else in shot appears calm and relaxed – and the odour of rodent becomes overwhelming.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey