Aviation Week caused an international incident of sorts in September 1994 when it published a cover image of two Dassault Rafale fighters superimposed over an artist’s rendering of the French flag. The problem: the flag's colors were in the wrong order.

Rather than fess up to the embarrassing mistake, the magazine doubled down two weeks later with an explanation to readers that strained credulity – and misspelled the Rafale’s name. “Our art director knows that the proper orientation of the French flag is blue, white and red,” it read. “The intent with the cover illustration was to show the French flag as an artistic backdrop in a composite photograph, flowing upward in the direction of the soaring Rafael fighters.

Two principles apply in this instance: if you have to explain an illustration, you only compound your first mistake; and, a perception that is widely held becomes a reality. Aviation Week & Space Technology regrets any misunderstanding that may have resulted.”  A quarter century later, we formally apologize to France.

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