- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2002

The foreign policy adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah yesterday denied assertions by Texas air traffic controllers that the prince asked that women be excluded from air traffic control duties affecting his flights to and from a meeting last week with President Bush in Texas.
"That's a bad joke absolutely did not happen," Adel al-Jubeir said during an interview on "Fox News Sunday."
Mark Pallone, a regional vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said earlier that the Saudi male-only request was passed along from the Waco airport to three FAA stations along the prince's route to the Waco approach control center and the Fort Worth and Houston en route centers.
He said the Fort Worth center posed no problems because an all-male crew had already been scheduled for duty. But authorities in the Houston control center "refused to comply" with the request, he said.
Ruben Gonzalez, the regional manager of RVA Inc., the firm that operates the control tower at Waco's Texas State Technological College airport, said representatives of Prince Abdullah asked the airport manager not to allow women on the ramp and to prohibit them from talking to pilots on the prince's jet.
Mr. Gonzalez said that a female tower manager was working the shift just before the prince arrived and she stepped aside, allowing two male air traffic controllers to take over.
The Dallas Morning News, which first reported the story Saturday, quoted an unnamed Federal Aviation Administration official in Texas as calling the Saudi demand "an outrage." Asked about the dispute yesterday by interviewers on the Fox network, Mr. al-Jubeir said: "I'm telling you we didn't make the request. We denied it at the time. The FAA denied it at the time."
Brit Hume, the Fox interviewer, noted that the FAA qualified its denial by saying if such a request was made, it was not aware of it. The request was apparently made to the airport, not to the FAA so that wouldn't preclude it," Mr. Hume said.
"The crown prince didn't fly in on his aircraft," Mr. al-Jubeir said. "He flew in on [his nephew] Prince Bandar's aircraft. The pilots on Prince Bandar's aircraft are former Air Force One pilots. With regards to no women on the ramp, there were a lot of women on the ramp, including American ladies who had lived in Saudi Arabia and whose husbands had retired [after working in Saudi oil fields]. There were television cameras there. You can look at the images. We have several hundred aircraft that fly into the U.S. on diplomatic missions. We have never made a request like this. How America manages its air traffic control system is entirely up to it."

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