The story was that planes were kept circling as President Bill Clinton had his hair clipped on Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport last month.
The runway haircut by Beverly Hills stylist Cristophe became such a metaphor for perceived White House arrogance that the president felt compelled to apologize for the reported delays.
But the reports were wrong.
According to Federal Aviation Administration records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the May 18 haircut caused no significant delays of regularly scheduled passenger flights -- no circling planes, no traffic jams on the runways.
Commuter airlines that fly routes reportedly affected by the president's haircut confirmed they have no record of delays that day.
The FAA records, generated by the regional Air Route Traffic Control Center, show that an unscheduled air taxi flight had the only delay attributed to the closure of two runways for an hour in anticipation of Air Force One's departure. The air taxi took off 17 minutes after leaving the gate -- two minutes late, by FAA accounting.
"If you understand the air traffic system, you'd find that statement [that planes were circling] ludicrous," said Fred O'Donnell, an FAA spokesman at the agency's regional office, which responded to New York Newsday's May 21 request under the Freedom of Information law.
However, an air traffic controller union official said the runway closings did increase the workload in the control centers.
Asked about the FAA records yesterday, White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers said, "It's certainly consistent with what we believed at the time."