An Obama administration official explained on April 27 that a presidential Boeing 747 and two fighter jets flew low near “ground zero” in New York City on April 27 because the White House Military Office wanted to update its file photographs of the president’s plane near the Statue of Liberty, according to an Associated Press report.
The un-named official said the White House Military Office told the Federal Aviation Administration that it periodically updates file photographs of Air Force One near national landmarks, such as the statute and the Grand Canyon. The April 27 incident caused a brief panic among workers in Manhattan and Jersey City, many of whom had survived the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Another White House official apologized on CNN after the low-flying 747 and its F-16 escorts frightened workers and residents into evacuating buildings.
The VC-25, as the Air Force calls it, functions as Air Force One when the president is aboard. It was taking part in a classified, government-sanctioned photo shoot, an FAA spokesman said.
“Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision,” Louis Caldera, director of the White House Military Office, told CNN. “While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it’s clear that the mission created confusion and disruption.” He told CNN the White House Military Office was trying to update its file photographs of Air Force One. He said the president was angry when he learned that the flight created panic in New York and New Jersey. The incident outraged many New Yorkers, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“First thing is, I’m annoyed — furious is a better word — that I wasn’t told,” Bloomberg said, calling the FAA’s decision to withhold details about the flight “ridiculous” and “poor judgment.”
“Why the Defense Department wanted to do a photo op right around the site of the World Trade Center defies the imagination,” he said. “Had we known, I would have asked them not to.”
USAF Capt. Anna Carpenter, of Andrews Air Force Base where the presidential planes are based, said that New York law enforcement agencies and the FAA had, in fact, been given notice of the exercise; but New York Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne emphasized that, while his department had been alerted to the flight by the FAA, it was “with directives to local authorities not to disclose information about it.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) echoed the Mayor Bloomberg’s sentiments in a news conference of his own, saying the FAA should have notified the public to avoid panic.
“It is absolutely outrageous and appalling to think that the FAA would plan such a photo shoot and not warn the public, knowing full well New Yorkers still have the vivid memory of 9/11 sketched in their minds,” the New York Democrat said. Schumer said the FAA’s decision not to announce the fly-by “really borders on being either cruel or very, very stupid.”